ICS Magazine

Credentials

September 8, 2005
Your professional education is an ongoing endeavor.


The term "credential" is defined in my dictionary as, "that which entitles one to confidence, credit, or authority." It is based on the same Latin root as "credible," which is defined as "capable of being believed, worthy of confidence, reliable."

This whole concept of credibility and credentials has become a major issue in the cleaning and restoration service industry. Consumers, insurance companies, and even government agencies are asking more than ever before for standardized, reliable credentials of service professionals. In our industry, these credentials have taken the form of certification. When I turn back to my trusty dictionary and look up "certify," I see that it means, " To confirm formally as true, accurate, or genuine; to guarantee as meeting a standard." In other words, proof of credibility, also known as credentials.

So certification is not really about getting your name on a list for referrals (although that can be a nice perk that goes along with it), but really it is about proof of meeting a standard, credibility. Certification is a guarantee of meeting standards and completing standardized accepted training with testing and validation. When the technology advances the standards may change. That is why every certification I know of in virtually any profession or trade will have a continuing education requirement. Sometimes the technology changes so drastically that whole new certification requirements need to be put into place and met by technicians so that the certification continues to be a guarantee of competence in current technology.

When I first became involved with this industry's certification institute more than 33 years ago, a student could attend a three-day "COP" course (Certificate of Proficiency) and be certified in carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning, carpet repair, odor control, water damage restoration, and carpet inspection. All this in just three days! At the time, that was the state-of-the-art in training in this business. Over time, as technology and industry knowledge and skill increased, each of these subjects became its own certification. Later, still more specialty training became available, such as applied structural drying and microbial remediation as expansions of the basic water-restoration training.

In the area of carpet cleaning, when stain-resistant carpet technology was introduced in 1986, every certified carpet-cleaning technician had to go back through specialized training and pass an exam that covered this new technology. Recently, still more specialized categories of certification have been introduced in area rug cleaning and leather upholstery cleaning. Will it ever end? I truly hope not. Technology needs to continually advance and standards need to be revised based on those advances. In order for certification to guarantee credibility and be used as a true "credential," those being certified must never stop their training.

I'm glad that my old original "COP" is no longer recognized as equivalent to modern certification. Remember, certification is our credential. It needs to be current, accurate, and standardized. Experience in the trade is a valuable asset but experience alone is not enough. It might be that you have done the same thing every day for 20 years. Do you have 20 years of knowledge or one day's knowledge very well rehearsed? A combination of continuing education, reevaluation, and regular revisions of requirements is the only way certification can truly be a guarantee of meeting a constantly changing standard.

Part of being a professional in any field is staying on top of the technology and keeping your credentials current. Maintain current credentials for the benefit of our customers and the efficiency and profitability of our businesses. Of course, it is true that one could get the training and skill without taking the test and earning the certification, but then where is the true credential, that which entitles one to confidence, credit, or authority?