Interview by Elisa Kahn, PhD
William Schimmel became the Executive Director and CEO of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) in late 2017. We sat down with him to discuss the changes he’s seen in the certification industry, what he believes the future of accreditation holds, the initiatives PTCB will take on this year and more.
What is the biggest change you have seen in the certification industry in your career?
I don’t know if it’s the biggest change, but the most important one is the increasing recognition that there are many routes to a fulfilling career outside of a high school diploma followed by a four-year college degree. Job-seekers, students and employers increasingly understand this, and it has led to steady growth in the diversity and quality of certifications available.
What do you believe the future of accreditation holds? What should organizations prepare for and what trends should we pay attention to as we establish future goals?
I think that accreditors, and certifiers for that matter, could go a long way to show their value by spending additional time looking at the outputs of their efforts. For example, is there a difference in outcomes with certified versus uncertified individuals? Are employers happier in general with credential holders that came from accredited education, training or certification programs? Some of this evidence is very difficult to obtain, but I firmly believe we should all be making the effort.
Certifiers and accreditors believe, and regularly state (sometimes loudly), that their mission is to protect the public. I think we owe it to the public to do our best to determine if there are data that show the value of certification and accreditation systems.
How do you see this being done? It would seem that asking employers such questions like: Do you hire credential holders and non-credential holders for the same job? Do you notice a difference in employee performance? Are there differences in employee retention? Are there differences in starting salary? Does the salary even out over time?
Your starter questions are exactly the way to have this conversation. They wouldn't yield the kind of empirical data that I would really like, but they do start to look at outcomes from the perspective of the stakeholders of a given certification program. During my couple of years on the ICE Research Committee, this was discussed a few times, but it's hard for a committee to do much because this type of work needs to be done program by program. The ideal though, and I'll use pharmacy technicians or other allied health care certs as an example, would be having an independent third party measure if health outcomes are better for certified versus uncertified practitioners. This is admittedly very difficult and would come with many confounding variables, but I think if a program has resources, it should make the effort to try to measure validity of outcomes for certificants. And, if it doesn't have the resources, it doesn't mean there isn't a university or foundation that might fund the research.
Do you have any ideas as to how this data could be collected?
Carefully designed surveys work well for most of the subjective questions mentioned above. Other portions involving harder evidence take a lot more work obviously. This is where a third party conducting, for example, a longitudinal study tracking a group of their certificants would be ideal.
How is the PTCB preparing for the future and what trends are you seeing that will affect PTCB?
PTCB, and many in the pharmacy profession at large, strongly believe that those on the pharmacy team can play a larger role in delivering health care services in the United States. With a huge generation like the Baby Boomers entering advanced age, pharmacy has the potential to deliver high level care efficiently and conveniently for patients. Something like 90 percent of Americans live within 1.6 miles of a pharmacy. All the members of the pharmacy team are obtaining the education, training and experience they need to deliver this high level of care. PTCB is working hard to support this vision and develop products to recognize the pharmacy technicians that play a critical role in pharmacies.
What will be some of the important initiatives for PTCB in 2018?
Toward the end of 2017, we launched our first specialty certification program after more than 20 years of offering one product. In 2018, we will spend a lot of time talking about why we think our new program is important and what products are coming next. The role of a pharmacy technician can be a great career and this is the first step toward building a family of certification programs to help recognize what technicians are already doing around the country.
Additionally, beginning in 2020, we have added a new pre-requisite for our CPhT credential. For a role where jobs are so numerous—almost 400,000 nationwide according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics—this will require a great deal of listening to the profession and very clear communication with our stakeholders.
What do you mean by “listening to the profession?”
The role of a technician can vary greatly based on where they practice. A technician working in a community-based pharmacy (e.g., CVS Health) may not have the same requirements for education, training or certification as a technician working in a health system. By listening to the profession, we will learn what the common ground (or a common set of knowledge, skills and abilities) for all practice settings is when it comes to entry-level standards. At the moment, there isn't always agreement on what the entry level should look like.
What do you believe are some of the most pressing challenges certifying organizations face today? What is your organization doing to tackle these challenges?
I think certification organizations continue to struggle with a lack of understanding from consumers as to the differences in credentials—both in type and quality. Why is a certificate program different from a certification program and when would one complete either of those versus going to college? Do consumers care or even know what is entailed for a program to earn or even retain accreditation?
These questions are not new but continue to deserve attention.
Do you think education programs should incorporate credentialing as part of their programs, if applicable? For example, should a degree in business management require passing a credentialing exam as part of graduation requirements?
I think you've hit on the $64,000 question here. What I hear from employers is that it would be much easier and beneficial to all stakeholders if whatever an entry level employee needed for employment was available from one place. What needs to be recognized though is that costs go up for everyone (employers, prospective certificants, etc.) when integration is needed (e.g., integrating an education program with a certification program) and it also creates complexities. We frequently engage in conversations with stakeholders who don't understand that, in our profession, education, training, certification and regulatory requirements are often separate and delivered by distinct organizations.
What are some of the opportunities coming down the pipeline that certifying agencies should be aware of and for which they should be preparing? What advice do you have for other CEOs – or those aspiring to the position?
I have now been a CEO for exactly 62 days [at the time of this interview]. I suspect I am not qualified to give out much advice, but perhaps I can offer this for those aspiring to the role. I think it’s important to keep in mind that, after you transition, your voice and opinions carry much more weight. Measure your words carefully in all settings, be it a press release, a meeting with volunteers, day to day email or a social media post.
William Schimmel is the Executive Director and CEO of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Before assuming the role in 2017, he amassed more than 15 years of leadership experience building and maintaining certification programs. As PTCB Associate Executive Director (AED) for 7 years, he gained expertise in the PTCB Program and experience building consensus among PTCB’s stakeholders. Under his leadership, PTCB’s CPhT Program earned accreditation from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Personnel Certification Accreditation Program. He renewed PTCB’s National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accreditation twice, insourced exam development functions, enhanced customer experience for PTCB CPhTs, and launched a multi-phased research effort to examine PTCB Certification outcomes. Previously, he was Vice President of Development and Evaluation for the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence where he engineered the development of 12 computer-based assessments. He was a Manager in the Telecommunications, Media, and Entertainment sector at Accenture for 5 years. He is an ISO/IEC 17024 Assessor of Accreditation Services for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
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