Association News

Raising the Certification Bar

July 15, 2003
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Let’s face it, everyone needs recognition. We all work hard at our jobs and in school. We spend large portions of our lives building success in the cleaning and restoration industry. We avoid moral and ethical calamities and we maintain a clean record with society. Each of us would like to be recognized for reaching generally accepted measures of competence in our profession.

Our clients demand improved performance from all of us. The cleaning and restoration industry has responded with increasingly sophisticated training, making it possible to reach or exceed the standards of performance demanded by our clients. In turn, the certification programs that measure our achievements are becoming more sophisticated. The organizations that grant certification are not immune to this scrutiny. Ultimately, they must reach certification and education standards that satisfy independent accreditation organizations.

The pace is picking up and a maze of industry certifications present challenges to all of us. The better-quality certifications are becoming more difficult to achieve, separating those who are quite good at what they do from those who merely get by. The best certification programs separate the truly competent professional from the everyday worker.

The best programs are measured by how few have qualified, not by how many have qualified at that competency level. High-quality certification programs are not engaged in a race for numbers. Employers, consumers, professional buyers and government regulators are coming to understand the pecking order among certifications. They are making decisions based as much on the quality and reputation of the certification grantor as on the quality and reputation of the practitioner who receives the certification.

Because certification is often confused with education, continuing education or even with accreditation, perhaps it would be best to suggest some working definitions.

Education, broadly speaking, is both the absorption of learning and the delivery of learning. Educational programs can range from a one-day workshop to a post-doctoral degree.

Certification is the recognition of achievement and accomplishments. Some certifications are for attending a workshop, while others commemorate an entire life’s work.

Continuing Education is maintaining skills and learning, so that a given level of certification continues to be meaningful in a changing world.

Accreditation is the certification of the organization that grants certification or delivers educational programs.

Certification can mean many things. That certificate hanging on the wall is only as good as the objectivity of the organization that granted it. At one end of the spectrum is a company that certifies its own courses, which is by definition a conflict of interest.

Toward the other end of the spectrum is an independent industry organization that certifies achievements of peers. At the far end of the continuum is the certifying organization under the scrutiny of an accreditation auditor. This is the holy grail of the certification continuum and carries weight with employers, professional buyers and government regulators.

As our industry grows, develops and matures, so do its measuring tools and benchmarks. Certifications are only relevant if they offer an accurate and independent assessment of meaningful accomplishments.

ASCR has issued various types of certifications for many years. When ASCR developed its current program, the elements that comprise a valid certification in any of a dozen disciplines within the cleaning and restoration industry were carefully reviewed and discussed. Those who receive ASCR certification must:

  • Have three years of actual hands-on experience in cleaning and restoration to ensure that those granted certificates actually provide cleaning and restoration services and are not vendors trying to ingratiate themselves to real practitioners
  • Demonstrate commitment to ethical business behavior.
  • Submit an application that withstands scrutiny based on a review of detailed information about the applicant.
  • Pass objective examinations with very high threshold scores.
  • Complete a major capstone project that demonstrates intimate knowledge of the cleaning and/or restoration profession and practices.
  • Maintain competency through continuing education.
  • Actively participate in the cleaning and restoration community so that they can be observed conducting day-to-day business by their peers. Continuous peer scrutiny is effective self-policing.

    Holding a meaningful credential enhances employment prospects and sales effectiveness. There is a personal sense of well being that is associated with a hard-to-achieve industry certification, one that is especially sweet when the recognition is from one’s industry peers.

    In addition to these personal advantages, a truly discerning certification program conveys skill and achievement to the consuming public. Holding the rare certification is the mark of select industry leadership, a highly desirable individual status and a goal to be sought.

    When the leaders of an industry seek to do the difficult, the result is the betterment of an entire industry. A rising tide does indeed float all boats. At ASCR, we believe that the highest achievement of any trade association is to continually raise the certification bar, while making available educational tools that bring the bar within reach of all who are willing to stretch.

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