What do chocolate and credentials have in common?

They both are good for you and worth the price if they are of high quality.  But just because a chocolate bar is advertised to gourmet foodies as the finest, it may not be the best, lacking the right ingredients to be true chocolate.  Same is the case for credentials.  A certification can be packaged nicely, even advertised as top shelf, yet what’s behind it may not be enough to assure that it measures competency and skill.

chocolate

For many years, IREC has been beating the credentialing drum.  Building a skilled and credentialed workforce for the clean energy industry has been an IREC priority action target.  But now we are committed to a variation on the theme as we  push for not just any credentials but credible credentials.

We look to national and international standards, including our own, to provide guidance and indicators for what makes a credential one that is meaningful and valid.

Along with our steady work on standards setting and assessment, there are quite a few new national efforts underway to move the credentialing bar higher and offer a common framework and consistent terminology.

The Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) just published their report on Making a Market for Competency-Based Credentials.  The report takes a look at the credentialing landscape and discusses approaches to take.  I was at the October 2012 CSW Long Beach meeting that brought together a wide range of stakeholders and I’ll participate in a follow-up energy panel discussion early this month in DC.

When meeting with our friend Roy Swift at the end of September at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), he told us about their new partnership with George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy to examine how ANSI can work to coordinate and improve standards and conformity assessment systems in the U.S. credentialing labor market.  This is an exciting undertaking and we’ll keep in touch with Roy about its progress.

Earlier this fall, Joe Sarubbi and I participated in the Austin launch of the ACT Foundation and their new national network of business and industry associations.  The Network will be looking at employer initiatives and how to better link educational programming and job requirements.  The Network will also address standards-based skills certifications and the experience vs. competency imbalance. I’ll be at the Network’s DC meeting in January.

The U.S. Department of Energy, the National Institute of Building Sciences and industry stakeholders are developing voluntary national guidelines to improve the quality and consistency of commercial building workforce credentials for five key energy-related jobs.  Similar to their approach for the residential market, DOE is providing leadership and funding to develop validated job task analyses and certification schemes.  Laure-Jeanne Davignon and I presented at the Commercial Workforce Credentialing Council meetings in late October and early November.

After a year of committee meetings, Working Group #5 of ANSI’s Energy Efficiency Standardization Coordination Collaborative submitted a draft chapter and recommendations on energy efficiency workforce credentials.  ANSI will release a full draft roadmap soon.  IREC has been co-chairing Working Group #5.  Eight issues areas are identified and discussed including the need for common terminology, naming the indicators of quality credentialing programs, the role of registered apprenticeships, determining the market value of credentials, the importance of assessing technical content for accreditation and measuring performance outcomes of the credentialed worker.  Sixteen recommendations are listed.  We’ll let you know when the draft roadmap is released for public comment.

We applaud these national efforts leading to credible credentials and will do our part to support the common goals on the table.

And I will personally do my part to always look for superior quality chocolate confections.

 

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