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Message from the Chair: Certification’s Changing Landscape and How You Can Take Action

Considering Environmental Shifts

During our April ICE Board of Directors meeting, we conducted a strategic discussion around some key drivers of change from the ASAE’s 2018 ForesightWorks project. Of interest was an emerging trend titled “Rejection of Expertise,” which relates to public skepticism toward well-credentialed proficiency where higher education and job-related credentials both fall under this umbrella. What is encouraging to note in this study is that new opportunities are arising for associations to present themselves as a trusted source with certification in an enviable position to challenge those who self-promote a perceived mastery of knowledge. One suggested action to gain program credibility is to market the value of certification. ICE members have long understood the importance of articulating the value of certifications to their various stakeholders. So many public factors are now all culminating together to raise the imperative of this concept to a new level.

My organization, APICS, has recently published a 2018 Supply Chain Compensation and Career Report for our industry, which I share as one example of an external messaging approach. This report indicates that individuals who hold an APICS certification can expect higher compensation. Of further interest, respondents with one APICS certification report a median salary that is 27 percent higher than those who do not hold an APICS certification. Holding more than one certification can increase earning potential up to 50 percent. This data point is a compelling message and strong indication that employers recognize the value of a certified staff member and are willing to pay higher for their skills.

Certified individuals have the ability to positively affect bottom line profitability, streamline efficiencies, and improve or protect public safety. Individuals who put the time and effort into proving their knowledge, skills and abilities through a competency-based certification program can realize substantial benefits – both tangible (increased salaries, promotional opportunities, more rewarding work responsibilities) and intangible (increased self-esteem, broader professional network, increased credibility).

Managing through Uncertainty

Of further consideration, this emerging trend parallels some new regulation challenges for certification at the U.S. state and national level. Beginning in 2016, ICE has been monitoring activities at the national level to reduce the burden of licensure and at the state level seeking to prevent regulatory mandates that prohibit certain entities (healthcare plans, hospitals, etc) from participating in certification maintenance. Approximately 25 states have either passed or considering pending legislation which restricts maintenance requirements for physicians. Though the initial threat is targeted to a specific audience, gaining traction for one of the most high-stakes professions could realistically cascade to other licensures and voluntary certifications.

Furthermore, the Louisiana House of Delegates considered passing a bill which would have banned the use of the term “certification” issued from professional credentialing bodies unless such certification is used in conjunction with licensure. The language was amended to address the concerns of the credentialing community and use of the term “certified” was deleted entirely by the amendment. Without the rapid mobilization of a passionate coalition, it is likely the outcome may have been different.

Although these new governmental factors are concerning for certification programs, it is encouraging to note that ICE has taken an industry leadership role in advocating for the importance of both maintenance (continuing competency and proficiency) and certification requirements for licensure. In this leadership role, ICE is collaborating with ASAE to create a permanent coalition to influence and amend these state legislative proposal and has received overwhelming support from our membership in the leadership role that ICE has taken. To learn more about this coalition, click here.

Taking Action

Given the changing landscape of the certification market, organizations should look for ways to become the trusted voice of record for your industry.

  • Market your organization’s certifications as proof of expertise and educate the public about why certification is important. Testimonials from a practitioner can be powerful validation of those tangible and intangible values. Do you have relationships with employers who would be willing to write a case study on the Return on Investment (ROI) of having a credentialed workforce?
  • Defend your certification as a trusted source for proving knowledge, skills and abilities. Strive to be an unbiased arbiter of information and curators of quality information. Practice vigilance and invest resources to defend your brand promise. Do you publicize credential holders or allow for public verification? What is your process for handling individuals who illegitimately claim they are certified?
  • Consider the negative ramifications of outdated certification content on the credibility of the credential potentially causing individuals to seek other, more current resources to support their career goals. A key standard in the NCCA accreditation program requires that a job/practice analysis be performed regularly to ensure the certification aligns with relevant industry specifications. How often do you perform Job Task Analysis and do you consider respondent demographics and sample sizes to produce the most accurate industry validation outcome?
  • Become involved in a coalition that supports your core values. This is a great way to influence the changing landscape of certification and collaborate with others on a common cause and creates opportunities to pool resources and share information.

What are some of your thoughts about changes in the certification industry? How could we further promote the value of credentialing? I’d love to hear from you. Email me anytime at ICEChair@credentialingexcellence.org.

Related Resources

Learn about the Professional Certification Coalition
SESSION: Re-Defining the Value of Certification 
WHITE PAPER: Value of Certification: An Exploration of Concept and Research Process 
FEATURE ARTICLE: How Much is My Certification Really Worth? 

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