The future of certification

At some point in the life of a discipline there is a drive toward certification. Want to be a real estate agent? It’s a quality thing, so we’re told. I was once a Certified Performance Technologist, and as I said to Dave Ferguson, I don’t see much value in re-certification when it consists of checking off boxes of how many conferences you have attended. Tom Gram, now Certifiable (Certified Training & Development Professional with CSTD), wonders:

Most learning and performance professionals will notice areas where the competencies could be modified to incorporate crossover disciplines and meet emerging trends.  For example, I think technology in learning and performance is at this point a core skill, as are informal learning approaches and sister competencies such as knowledge management and performance consulting.

I gained much from my CPT certification process as it was based on what I had done and I had to show competence. My professional responsibilities derive from the CPT standards of behaviour. However, certification can create a closed society that keeps competent people out and reinforces the status quo and the money flow. Such was the case the Ontario College of Teachers when a judge determined there is more than one way to show competence in a field. Certification can also become self-serving, as a primary revenue generator for the association.

In my case I didn’t renew my CPT designation because not a single one of my clients recognized it. I still follow the code of ethics and stay current in my field, but the piece of paper has no business value. So what is the future of certification when disciplines overlap and meld and certification bodies move with glacial speed in keeping up with the times? Certification, like professional associations, will have to change and become more reflective of the networked workplace.

6 Responses to “The future of certification”

  1. Dave Ferguson

    I think ISPI is going through a lot of soul-searching, with some of the high-strategy folks having little room workaday training/learning folks (who have been the backbone of membership). Going totally “mega” (to use the favored term) will mean, I think, that you can hold the annual conference at Panera or Tim Horton’s.

    I’m still undecided about renewing my CPT, but mostly because of the sunk cost (initial, and one renewal), and because I was among the hundreds certified in the grandfathering period.

    I have no doubt the CPT is a revenue stream for ISPI. Guessing a thousand CPTs would mean 333 renewals a year at $175, or close to $60,000 in fees before costs.

    I think most certification becomes a floor, and one that’s not looked at closely. Having CPT on a resume could help if the employer or prospect already knows about ISPI and performance improvement, but in six years it’s never sparked a single conversation for me.

  2. Tom Gram

    Hey Harold;
    I think professional certifications struggle mostly in pseudo-professions like our own (I think I’d still prefer a certified doctor for my heart operation than the guy up the street)
    The wide range of people working successfully in “learning and performance” without accreditation make it an unnecessary step to take for most.

    The main purpose of a certification is to protect buyers from hacks and sub-par expertise. I think that the lack of value put on professional certification in training and development is partly due to to the lack of value attributed training and development itself. If it saved organizations the way doctors saved lives it might be a different story.

    That said, I think as training/learning continues to professionalize in small steps around an generally accepted body of knowledge and the perceived value of learning continues to grow by organizational leaders the value of a “certification” will grow with it. If only we could get that “body of knowledge” to keep pace.


  3. Harold Jarche

    Tom, I like that term, “pseudo-profession”.

    Today, doctors get trained in different ways, so there is more than one correct approach. For instance, our local medical school uses a problem-based learning approach, with not one single lecture in four years of training.

    If competency is the reason behind certification, why are foreign-trained doctors kept from working in Canada? Proper competency assessment could address questions about ability, in a multiple of ways, as the judge in the College of Teachers case pointed out. Certification has a strong tendency to become self-serving and protectionist. Yes, I want competent doctors but I’m not sure if current certification practices really meet that need.

  4. Paul

    This is an interesting topic, in part because I have been considering for a little over a year whether to get my CPLP or other ISD certification. Being on the job market, it seems at least 1 of every 10 job postings asks for it, and some explicitly tell you not to apply if you don’t have one. I figured $1000 US is not bad, but at the same time, I’ve been working in the capacity for years, and would basically be paying $1000 for what seems like simple validation to others of what I already know. On top of that, my Masters I am currently in the middle of earning covers material in the CPLP, so perhaps that’s my answer right there.


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