Thursday 29 March 2012

Key Steps to Building a Certification Program: Determine the Feasibility

Determining the feasibility of the certification program is an essential element to ensuring a successful program. Key considerations include identifying underlying assumptions, the application fee, and the projected revenues and expenses.

Underlying assumptions:
An assumption is an educated guess that sets the foundations for projections. When developing a certification program, the underlying assumptions should be as comprehensive as possible. Impacting factors may include the fee charged to candidates; candidate volume; the anticipated level of funding; the required level of staffing; marketing expenses; types of assessments utilized; the examination delivery system; and professional fees. Along with these considerations, it follows that a careful understanding of the business performance of the organization is required.

When establishing certification fees to be charged to candidates, the certifying organization needs to consider market demand for the credential as well the target candidates’ salary. The fees charged to candidates and organizations may have a strong impact on the success of the program. If the fee is too high, it may limit program accessibility; if it is too low, candidates may question its value. The fees charged to individuals for initial certification range, but the majority is less than $500, and for recertification, the fee is generally less than $250 (Knapp & Associates, 2007).

Revenue and expenses:
The certification body needs to assess its capacity to develop the program initially but, most importantly, to sustain it over time. In order to accomplish this, it needs to identify human resources requirements, ensure the availability of qualified individuals (e.g., program managers, core team administrative staff, psychometric experts, committee members) as well as establish a budget taking into consideration initial program development costs (e.g., policy development, design of forms, software purchase), recurring program maintenance costs (e.g., exam administration, review of assessment instruments) and associated liabilities. When establishing the financial viability of the program, one also needs to consider the model selected (e.g., government- or industry-subsidized, cost recovery through application fees or revenue generating) as well as the short- and long-term candidate projections. A common error is to underestimate the true costs of the program. It is essential to be prepared to present various scenarios and options to the board overseeing the project.

This post is based on content from 'ABC's of Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Key Steps to Building A Certification Program

1. Identify the Purpose
The first step in building a certification program is to identify the business objectives and the program’s intended use, or “raison d’ĂȘtre”. To determine the purpose, you must consider the focus of the program, its intended candidates, and its nature. This can often include: increasing professional visibility; establishing professional legitimacy; elevating the professional/industrial status; ameliorating skills, ability and knowledge; and, addressing concerns of safety and public perception.

2. Define the Mission
The mission of a certification program is rooted in the need the program is attempting to meet. A plurality of needs may exist. An organization may seek to differentiate itself or its profession, particularly in a context of heightened competition. A certification program may be desired to establish an objective way to verify the skills, ability, and knowledge of an individual in an otherwise variable and uncertain environment. For candidates whose expertise and contribution is yet unrecognized, certifying may serve to enhance both the reputation and value of their given profession.
Establishing the mission requires careful thought to the intended beneficiaries of the program. The program may specifically apply to new entrants to a profession. Conversely, it may be intended for broader availability within the profession.
Key questions to ask when developing the mission: Who is the program intended for? How will the program fulfill its purpose?

3. Develop a Strategic Plan
Once you have identified your purpose and mission, you can then move on to developing your program’s strategic plan. Within this plan, you will examine the environmental opportunities and threats, such as technological factors that may impact the program. As part of this step, it is important to conduct an environmental scan to identify organizational strengths and weaknesses such as staff skills, branding, office space, relationships with program suppliers or other organizations, volunteers, financial resources, visibility, etc. These details inform the strategic goals to be developed as well as the criteria of success with which to evaluate the plan.

This post is based on content from 'ABC's of Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.

Monday 12 March 2012

Thinking of Certification as a Business

A certification program should be based on a business need. For any business to be successful there has to be a need and demand for its service offerings. The same principle applies to organizations wanting to offer a certification program. Such program should be developed as a response to a specific government requirement, industry need and/or market demand.

To ensure that the certification program is based on a strong business model, the certification body must first:
-Identify and define the target market (e.g. occupations/specialties, age of workers, short/long-term demand for workers, and skills gaps/shortages).
-Understand the various industry stakeholders and their needs/expectations (e.g., incumbents, employers, educators, and public).
-Conduct a competitive analysis to be aware of existing competing programs in the market and how they can better refine their product and position themselves, as well as identify potential partnerships.
-Assess industry interest and potential buy-in from employers and candidates over time.

Certification programs generally utilize accepted assessment methods such as multiple choice exams, performance demonstrations, portfolios, and simulations. Once a formal job analysis has been completed, an assessment tool deemed most appropriate to assess the skills, knowledge and abilities for the particular profession is selected. Regardless of the testing method(s) selected, there are three underlying concepts which must be taken into account when developing programs: validity, reliability fairness.

Validity pertains to the extent to which examinations measure the intended skills, ability and knowledge. In other words, the content of the assessment tool should adequately reflect the job requirements. Validity also refers to the how well the results of the assessment tool reflects the true performance level or competency of a candidate. As such, assessments must be current to practice and consistent with the nature and intended focus.

Reliability refers to the consistency or repeatability of a measure and can be understood as the ability of the tool to produce consistent results. More precisely, it refers to the likelihood of a candidate obtaining a similar result on the same or an equivalent examination. A low reliability indicates that the scores derived from the examination convey little meaning in terms of consistent decisions (e.g., pass or fail decisions). It is important to note that you can have a highly reliable tool with absolutely no validity. That is why you always need to have both validity and reliability.

Fairness is defined as the absence of bias. It requires the equitable treatment of candidates in the testing process, equality of testing outcomes for examinees without discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, or other prohibited grounds. Ways to ensure fairness include following accepted methods for setting the passing mark and conducting assessments in a standardized, secure, and proctored environment.

This post is based on content from 'ABC's of Certification' by Human Resource Systems Group, Ltd.