ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Launch Date Approaches for New ANSI Accreditation Program

Personnel Certification Runs Gamut of Professional Services

New York, Dec 30, 2002

It’s lunchtime on the Monday between Christmas and New Years Eve, and New York City-based fitness instructor Ary Nunez is leading an audience of mostly 20- or 30-something-year-old professionals, stay-at-home Moms, actors/models/waiters, and others who have gathered for a grueling 45-minute group fitness “spinning” class at one of Manhattan’s many gyms.

Nunez is a group fitness instructor with certifications from organizations such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which has certified more than 40,000 fitness professionals; and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), which has certified more than 150,000 instructors. Fitness instructors are one example of a variety of professionals now required, or at least encouraged, to pursue certification as a means of demonstrating their qualifications and providing an assurance that they are capable and competent to supply certain services. The breadth and scope of certification programs in existence today is tremendous: programs exist for financial planners, public accountants, safety professionals, non-destructive testing experts, supply and purchasing management professionals, the construction industry, health care professionals and hundreds more.

“Personnel certification helps to verify that individuals have the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to perform their work,” explained Lane Hallenbeck, vice-president for conformity assessment at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a private non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system.

Who oversees this myriad of personnel certification programs? At present, there is no comprehensive system and most do not have any oversight. However, thanks to the efforts of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), a new international standard will soon be available to provide for the accreditation of personnel certification bodies. The document, ISO/IEC FDIS 17024, General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification Systems of Persons, is now in the final draft approval stage and is expected to be ready for final publication in early 2003.

According to experts involved with development of the standard, a primary objective of the standard is to achieve and promote a globally accepted benchmark for organizations managing the qualifications and certification of persons. Accreditation under the auspices of ISO/IEC 17024 will create an internationally recognized framework and evaluation system.

ANSI, as the U.S. member body of ISO and the IEC (via the U.S. National Committee), will run the accreditation program within the United States. A pilot with five personnel certification bodies was recently completed in anticipation of a February 2003 program launch.

Dr. Roy Swift, ANSI’s director of the personnel certifier accreditation program, explained that the comprehensive pilot program required that each organization go through a formal accreditation process, including the submission of documentation for each of the requirements identified in the standard, an on-site audit, and the correction of any non-conformities (i.e., requirements that have not been met).

“ANSI's Accreditation Program for Personnel Certifiers, which is based on ISO/IEC FDIS 17024, will drive continual improvement in the competence of these professions and will confer additional credibility to these organizations and promote [their] recognition in the national and international arenas,” said Dr. Swift.

Will certification bodies be required to participate? “No,” said Dr. Swift, “because accreditation under the standard is completely voluntary.” However, many certifying organizations are already operating at the regional and international level – for example, the AFAA’s 150,000 certifications have been awarded to persons in more than 73 countries since 1983. Programs accredited under the international standard will increase the potential for national and international reciprocity of certified individuals and personnel certification bodies, thereby allowing individuals like Nunez to become much more mobile.

“ISO/IEC 17024 helps to provide confidence that personnel certification schemes are managed within a consistent, globally-recognized process,” stated Hallenbeck. “This is a great benefit to each of us, as consumers, when we rely upon other individuals for professional services.”

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