Interview by Cynthia Allen, MA
After almost 45 years in the accreditation industry, Chuck Ramani, president of the International Accreditation Service (IAS), reflects on his career and the increasing value of accreditation as he prepares for retirement.
Ramani is the founder and president of IAS, an internationally recognized accreditation body and partner to the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) in the accreditation of certification programs under the ISO 17024 Standard. IAS currently manages a portfolio approaching 1,000 accredited agencies in 17 different fields, with accredited clients in over 34 countries.
Prior to launching IAS, Ramani worked as a licensed civil and quality engineer and a certified building official with several years of experience in the construction industry, including supervision of quality management systems, preparation of test standards, training on conformity assessment standards, leading assessment and evaluation teams for onsite assessments of testing laboratories, inspection agencies and governmental entities involved in enforcement of codes and standards.
His accomplishments in the field are extensive, but it is his unwavering commitment to quality standards that stand out. In fact, as ICE Digest caught up with Ramani to reflect on his career, he was actively reviewing a Standard in preparation for a new accreditation program.
In 2016, ICE announced its partnership with IAS to accredit to the ISO/IEC 17024 standard for accreditation. In your opinion, what is the value of this partnership?
A few years ago, ICE (previously NOCA) reached out to IAS to discuss a possible partnership. Given ICE’s rich experience in the credentialing field and IAS’s robust history in accreditation, it seemed a natural fit to partner and expand our membership services in the personnel certification area. We believe the ICE/IAS partnership will promote the recognition of ICE members and their certified personnel as well as providing new international market opportunities.
In many countries, accreditation is an area that is protected from competition. The government in the country typically establishes an accreditation body to represent the national interest. This model, especially in a less developed country, may create an unhealthy monopoly leading to uneven application of sound conformity assessment practices. Once standards are stipulated and accepted by the industry, any viable accreditation body should be able to do the work as long as the entity complies fully with ISO/IEC Standard 17011, its accreditation process is transparent and cost effective. In the United States, we value systems that allow open competition and thus rely on market forces to guide growth and acceptance. I believe this model supports a more transparent process in which certification programs have a choice in the accrediting body they select. Providing a choice in accrediting body also gives us, as the accreditor, the responsibility to hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard of quality and performance while keeping the service costs down.
What is the biggest change you have seen in the industry in your career?
The most significant change I have seen is greater recognition of accreditation by the regulatory community. The concept of accreditation will continue to grow as it becomes the “norm” for various industries. Accreditation of third-party product testing and certification bodies has been in place for a long time, but we are now seeing tremendous growth in accreditation of personnel certification bodies (PCBs). Within the PCB community, only a small percentage of PCBs are accredited to either NCCA or ISO standards, with the vast majority relying on “self-certification” in their services. The quality and integrity of services provided by non-accredited PCBs varies wildly, creating significant confusion in the market, damaging public recognition of all PCBs, and occasionally causing significant damage to the public’s health, safety and welfare. As global trade agreements expand to include professional services, we expect an enormous increase in the need for proper vetting of service providers which can only come from competent certifiers having accreditation from globally recognized accreditation bodies such as ICE and IAS.
What do you believe the future of accreditation holds? What should organizations prepare for and what trends should we should be paying attention to as we establish future goals?
With increasing global trade in goods and services, there will be demand for full transportability of credentials across countries. Also, within the United States, collective bargaining units are insisting on better vetting of worker credentials to level the playing field when it comes to use of certified workforce, The current partnership between ICE and IAS must at all times be on guard to encourage regulatory agencies to adopt robust certification schemes supported by strong accreditation oversight. We must collectively ensure that the concept of single source accreditation doesn’t creep into regulations or accreditation standards.
You have had significant experience in the global credentialing and accreditation community. What are your takeaways from this experience?
I firmly believe in and champion the concept of transparency. I believe this is best-achieved through accreditation bodies which are nonprofit, truly independent and not involved or owned by entities that have interest in other related and often conflicting businesses. I also believe that accreditation is here to stay and will continue to grow. There is greater need for impartial evaluation of credentialing programs and I do not expect this to slow down. Future workforce will demand an internationally transportable certificate, something that is an integral part of the ICE/IAS partnership.
Any plans for your retirement?
I will continue to serve the accreditation community by helping promote the concept of third-party accreditation. I also plan to get more involved in creating the next generation of the U.S. workforce. There is a lot of discussion about outsourcing of positions but less discussion on strategies to build our own domestic workforce. Substantial work is yet to be done in this area, and I hope to make more contributions here.