Kristal Kleer: Opportunities ... but with Challenges

Article excerpt

This is a very exciting time for renewable energy. Clean, green energy sources are moving up the ladder by becoming viable parts of our energy mix. A combination of market conditions including changing economics, state and federal policies and incentives, media attention, and a national dialogue has propelled renewable energy into the spotlight. But, with this new marquee placement, comes the need to proceed cautiously by developing a workforce and markets with standards and assurances. This translates into training that covers the right skill sets and third-party verification of job competency and product performance.

Last November, more than 500 participants from across the U.S. and Europe packed plenary and breakout sessions at the third New Ideas in Educating a Workforce in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency conference. National leaders in renewable education and training shared valuable, updated information and insight into all aspects of building and maintaining a quality, safety-conscience green workforce. Many themes and topics were addressed but one that stood out was the value of credentialing.

Certification, certificate, accreditation, licensing--all terms we hear and use. However, each one is different, conveying that a different set of criteria, requirements and achievements have been met. There is often confusion among these designations as they are used interchangeably and frequently incorrectly.

Certification is a formal process of assessing knowledge and work experience and is typically awarded for a certain period of time with requirements for re-certification. A certificate is usually a document demonstrating that the holder has successfully completed an educational course or program. A certificate is a one--time statement about an individual; a snapshot defining an accomplishment. Each one--a professional certification award or a certificate--measures different levels of proficiency and competency.

Here's where we are tripping over terms: We're seeing training providers offer a "certification" which is really a certificate and we're seeing certificate holders claiming they are certified. Confusing? You bet it is. And where it falls the hardest is on the consumer who expects that a "certification" claim ensures good workmanship.

Professional certification is based on a formal model that starts with a process that produces an industry-approved job analysis. Subject matter experts are convened to develop the tasks and subtasks describing the knowledge, skills, and abilities that an individual in a specific job or occupation should have. A certification scheme requires a defensible, balanced and transparent assessment and set of criteria. …