Professional knowledge is generally evidenced by certifications showcasing individual skills and knowledge. Certifications are unique; they show a commitment to lifelong learning as re-certification is usually required approximately three years after each new certification. Certifications provide a credible third-party assessment of an individual’s skills. They prove that the individual has completed a learning process and achieved the stated objectives.
Certifications can provide a post nominal title and the use of official certification material such as a brand logo or digital badge to provide evidence of an individual’s certification. These materials help modern businesses easily evidence the skills of their workforce in an agile, digital platform – essential for showcasing expertise and establishing competitive advantage.
Some certifications, however, do provide more kudos than others. Five characteristics that valued certifications have in common are:
- The certification is built on demonstrated market need. There must be perceived value in distinguishing those who have proven competency and those who have not.
- They must be objective. Certified and independent subject matter experts, third-party endorsement, and autonomy in governing the certification program, are essential in developing and maintaining a valid and legally defensible credential.
- A rigorous regimen of education, training and assessment is essential to a successful certification program; a certification that requires little effort or knowledge to earn is typically of lower value than one that demands significant effort, determination, experience, knowledge, and skill.
- A provider emphasis on ethical conduct, covering a broad range of topics – from protecting the certification assessment from cheating, to ensuring the ethical practice of the profession, must be a priority.
- As all industries and organizations grow and change, professionals that serve them must do the same by re-certifying their knowledge. One way to determine the value of certifications is to check if the education provider has a re-certification process in place. This demonstrates they are committed to ensuring skills remain current and reflect the very latest advances in your chosen sector. Plus, the re-certification process should be accessible, quick, and cost effective.
Much of the strength of professional certifications, therefore, is based on a fundamental trust that the certification provider possesses the proven credibility to maintain the value of certifying, for the individuals, their employer, and the industry the company operates in. For providers, earning this proven credibility relies on their ability to develop and upkeep a reputable certification program, requiring expertise in several areas: in-depth knowledge of the industry and job tasks; industry educational requirements and eligibility requirements; ongoing assessments and maintenance. These are just a few aspects that must be included in a credible provider’s program development plan.
In the current professional climate, with businesses facing an increasingly challenging landscape in finding suitably certified/qualified staff, elevating themselves against competitors and surviving rising operational costs, the benefits of a professionally certified workforce are widespread.
For business leaders, certification provides reassurance that employees’ skills are enhanced every three years with new learning, aligning knowledge with changes and technical developments within the industry, the latest working standards, and best practice. This not only breeds self-assurance among the individuals holding the certifications but also gives businesses the confidence to know they can deliver what they have promised, on time and on budget, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction. Organizations are also able to accurately forecast training budgets on an ongoing basis enabling better fiscal management across the board. More importantly they can minimize the risk of human related errors and the substantial cost implications this has. They can feel confident, knowing their teams are professionally certified and can competently undertake their job tasks correctly, working to the latest standards and codes of practise. Furthermore, certified individuals will have access to the latest program material to refer to whenever they need it.
The most credible education providers also recognize individuals with qualifications alongside the certifications. Qualifications differ from certifications in that they are valid for life and do not need renewing. They are controlled by international educational bodies (such as Pearson, the world’s largest educational company) and only approved education centers can offer qualifications. The process to become an approved education center is a rigorous one and an annual reassessment is required to maintain approved center status. Qualifications are awarded at various levels and each level can be referenced through equivalences across the world.
Many training organizations also provide self-certificated training without an awarding body, academic processes or assessment associated with the certificate. These types of awards do represent a level of training has been attended by the individual and can add value to the individual, their employer, and the wider industry.
To secure value, the words of Benjamin Franklin are still as relevant today as they were in 1758. Any investment in professional knowledge, especially when choosing a credible provider to deliver your workforce’s education program, is time and money well spent.
Alan Cook is CNet Training’s Business Development Manager (US LatAm & Canada) and has been with CNet for over 8 years. CNet Training is a global leader in technical education for the digital infrastructure industry. Contact CNet Training to learn how following the Global Digital Infrastructure Education Framework (originated by CNet) to align employee knowledge deliverables with business strategy can provide a powerful advantage over competitors.