In The News

A Means Test for Quality Industry Certifications

A new commentary from the National Network is pointing toward a solution for one of the most troubling questions concerning industry-recognized certifications: How do we know which of these countless certificates are worth the (virtual) paper they are printed on?

This is a critical issue, since certifications are proving to be a powerful tool to connect Americans to the best jobs in growing fields. In fact, an October 2017 CNBC poll of 5,000 Americans ranked “professional, technical certificate” well above either a four-year or two-year degree in terms of how well they prepare someone for a well-paying job in today’s economy.

Since many certification training programs qualify participants for federal financial aid, it is vital for the government to provide some guidance on quality certifications. It turns out that one federal law, the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), contains a specific provision on “Quality Assurance of Certification Programs and Standards.” It stipulates that DoD and DHS support will be limited to those certifications that are:

  • accredited by a nationally-recognized third-party personnel certification accreditor; or
  • used by an entire industry or sector; or
  • endorsed by a nationally-recognized trade/industry association or organization representing a significant part of that industry or sector.

In its new commentary, the National Network recommends that the federal Office of Management and Budget, which oversees many of the government’s staffing and training policies, issue a Circular to apply the NDAA quality assurance of certification programs definition to all federal agencies. The commentary also includes a set of specific recommendations to guide certifying organizations as they set out to comply with the federal guidance.