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Building Accountability Among America’s Personnel Certification Agencies

ANSI International Personnel Certification Summit, July 13-14, 2004

Washington, DC, Jul 23, 2004

More than 100 professionals from a diverse array of organizations engaged in an enthusiastic multi-sector dialogue on the value of the ANSI accreditation program for personnel certifiers and its relationship to the federal government, state licensure, and the international accreditation community at the ANSI International Personnel Certification Summit, July 13-14, 2004 at the Jurys Hotel in Washington, DC. Driven by heightened post 9-11 security, concern for public safety, consumer anxiety, growing skepticism about the bona fides of credentials, and demand for accountability, the event succeeded in addressing these phenomena within an integrated setting. Summit presenters included ANSI, U.S. federal and state government agencies, ANSI-accredited organizations, and the for-profit sector.

“The Conference made it clear that an accreditation standard for personnel certification bodies was urgently needed to support a mobile workforce in today’s global economy,” said George Bieber, human resources and training deputy director of the U.S. Department of Defense Defensewide Information Assurance Program. “The presentations represented a broad spectrum of interests, but surprisingly there was something of value to take away from virtually every session, no matter how far removed it appeared to be from my particular interest – information technology.”

Welcoming Summit participants, ANSI president and CEO Mark W. Hurwitz (pictured, left) emphasized ANSI’s role as an independent coordinator of the U.S. voluntary consensus standardization system. He added that ANSI provides a “forum where subject matter experts from the private and public sectors can work cooperatively toward the development of voluntary standards and conformity assessment systems that ultimately benefit the nation.”

Keynote speaker Thomas Dowd, deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, described the DOL market demand-driven program related to the U.S. public workforce. Key elements of this program will be career lattices, DOL-funded employer-community college partnerships, and worker competency and mobility based upon performance-based portable credentialing.

Additional U.S. federal government panelists underscored the need for a mix of workforce competency, certification/recertification, credentialing, and continuous assessment, increasingly in partnership with the private sector. The U.S. Department of Defense described its soon-to-be-mandated certification program in Information Assurance (IA), applied on a cross-agency basis through ANSI accreditation in accordance with ISO/IEC 17024. In federal healthcare, the need for standardized certification and credentialing was emphasized. The Department of Homeland Security has mandated an annual proficiency review for its baggage screening handlers. The Federal Highway Administration administers a right-of-way program where certification is expected to play a larger role.

One popular session during the summit focused on the experiences of ANSI-accredited personnel certifiers from ANSI’s pilot program. They cited the following for seeking ANSI accreditation: (1) distinguishing their credentials from competitors; (2) imprinting a trans-border ISO/IEC 17024 cachet on their program; and (3) “raising the bar” by elevating their credential through an ANSI on-site assessment. Both the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry cited ANSI accreditation as a key factor in selecting the ANSI-accredited National Inspection Training Certification Corporation (NITC) as their certification administrator.

International speakers from Brazil and Japan voiced their expectations for ISO/IEC 17024 vis-à-vis their personnel certification programs. One international consultant highlighted the need for police and security certification programs in Baghdad. National Consumer League president Linda Golodner underscored the need to expand consumer knowledge in personnel certification activities beyond education, health, safety, and financial credentials and the importance of the joint ANSI-Conference for Food Protection (CFP) accreditation program. In a stirring finale, futurist Joseph Reum strongly underscored the role of certification as a technical path to pursue lifelong learning.

The ANSI International Personnel Certification Summit offered a central venue to focus upon personnel certification and accreditation issues in a dynamic environment. “The Summit helped to boost this new program’s credibility and recognition among the federal and state government, private sector businesses, and the certification community,” said ANSI conformity assessment vice president Lane Hallenbeck. “Competence of people is a pivotal factor in creation and delivery of goods and services all over the world, he continued, “and standards and conformity assessment can provide assurance to the marketplace.”

The next Summit on ISO/IEC 17024 is planned for May 2005.

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