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.

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