Standards exist to protect human health, safety, and the environment, as well as to ensure that different products work together. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 100,000 standards across all areas of industry. Standards enable you to make a phone call anywhere in the world, ensure that batteries for electrical appliances are safe, and that an airplane that takes off from London can be refueled in Los Angeles. There are even standards that guide how personnel credentials are developed and maintained (or what stands behind it).
Certifications, a type of credential that reliably indicates an individual has acquired the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a specific occupation or job, have the potential to be useful tools in addressing employment, re-employment, upskilling, and advancement challenges facing workers. In 2020, more than 8,100 different certifications were awarded to millions of workers nationally. Yet, many employers, workers, students, policymakers, and education and workforce development practitioners lack information on how to distinguish quality certifications from those of lesser value—and how standards help assure quality, effectiveness, and market value.
Standardization and Workforce Credentials
To this end, Workcred has released a new four-part video series, Standardization and Workforce Credentials, that sheds light on the role of voluntary standards in supporting quality certifications for the U.S. workforce. Featuring insights from credentialing experts Roy Swift, Workcred executive director; Cynthia Woodley, vice president, chief operating officer, and psychometrician at Professional Testing, Inc.; and Rob Pedigo, head of Pedigo and Associates, the series highlights how credentials that meet standards gain credibility with industry and have been proven as effective in the workplace.
As one example, Center for Disease Control data show that the number of food safety incidents in establishments, restaurants, and supermarkets declined within the food safety industry once certification programs were incorporated—specifically accredited certification programs.
The Role of Standards in Certification
The major standards for certification programs, ISO/IEC: 17024:2012, Conformity assessment – General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs, covers all aspects of developing and maintaining the program, from how the exam is developed to how the exam is administered and even the operations of the credentialing body itself. This includes the policies and procedures for their day-to-day operations for things like challenges, complaints, and appeals.
When someone chooses to get a certification from an accredited credentialing body (i.e., goes through the review process to determine and verify how they are meeting the requirements of the standard) or adheres to the standard, they attain third-party verification, or quality assurance, that the credentialing body is doing things the way they should be doing it. One of the greatest benefits of standards and accreditation for credentials is assurance to anyone that the credential fully measures what it claims to measure—and that it’s a credential that an employer can count on when it is time to consider an otherwise unknown skill set in someone that they choose to hire.
Standards play such a critical role in certification in the U.S., and, when we look at quality credentials, we recognize that one aspect of quality is based on adherence to standards. It is so important when making decision about credentials, like certifications, to be aware of the standards so you can evaluate the quality of the credential. And by having standards and accreditation to those standards, it provides the assurance that individuals and employers seek.
Watch Workcred’s Standardization and Workforce Credentials Videos
- Part I: The Basics of Standardization provides details on the elements of standards and examines the process to develop and revise standards.
- Part II: Credentials and Assessments Built on Standards explores how standards play a role in the development of credentials, including personnel certifications, and how standards factor into the operation of certification bodies.
- Part III: The Value of Accredited Credentials highlights the value of accreditation and explains how accreditation uses standards that set quality assurance for credentials.
- Part IV: Outcomes of Standardization discusses the outcomes of standards for certification programs, like improved or increased employability and decreased public safety concerns. The video recommends increased data collection efforts and standards in order to better quantify these outcomes.