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Skill Certification: An Effective HR Strategy

ba desk-resized-600Statistics Canada’s projections indicate that the labour force and overall participation rate will continue to decline over the next two decades. We have to deal with the pressing issue of labour shortage in critical industries across Canada now.

One possible solution to address this challenge may be skill certification. The government, sector councils, educational institutions, business and industry can work collaboratively to put standard certification schemes in place for various trades and professions. This joint undertaking will supplement other public and private sector initiatives to recruit and hire new employees who will be replacing retirees from the baby boomer generation. It’s imperative to fill vital occupations with qualified people to keep the wheels of industry turning, increase productivity and strengthen the Canadian economy.

I have had the opportunity to see the benefits of skill certification at the national level through our projects with the Canadian Red Seal program and sector councils.

For instance, in our recent work with the Mining Human Resources Council, The Competency Group team set up certification schemes to form the basis of a credentialing program for miners. A recent press release from the council indicates that:

“The Canadian Mining Credentials Program is the cornerstone of the mining industry’s efforts to recognize the skills, knowledge and experience of mining workers, provide workers with portable credentials, accredit training programs for mining workers and enable employers to accurately and consistently verify the skills and experience of job applicants and support ongoing professional recognition for their employees.”

The benefits of skill certification can also be applied at the organizational level. For example, skill certification can be an excellent method to promote and acknowledge job cross training.

Some additional advantages are:

  • Establish a common standard of performance across the organization
  • Increase productivity and competitiveness
  • Motivate staff
  • Improve workforce skills
  • Promote a positive image of the organization

A World Bank paper, “Labor Competency Certifications in Commercial Occupations: A Literature Review” released in March 2011 highlights the benefits of skill certification:

“For firms, certification should decrease the transaction costs of selecting and placing workers, improve the ability of managers to match skills to tasks, and increase the effectiveness of outsourcing by making it possible to identify competent external suppliers. Certification may thus enhance organizational performance, promote continuous improvement of efficiency, and increase productivity and profits. ”

From a pan-Canadian perspective, skill certification can be a useful tool to integrate the growing number of immigrants into our workforce. A valid assessment of their equivalent education, work experience and transferable skills, supplemented with core upgrading courses if necessary, can qualify foreign-born newcomers for Canadian certification in their trade or profession. This will help meet the continuing demand for skilled labour in our major industries. A standardized system will facilitate the certification process.

The foundation of a skill certification process involves these steps:

1.  Conduct a competency analysis of the occupation by breaking it down into its Major Areas of Competence, Tasks and Sub-tasks. Here’s an example:

Major Area of Competence

Task Sub-Task

Manage projects

Create a project plan. Coordinate development of project milestones and deadlines.

2.  Set the expected performance standard for each task to evaluate proficiency. Establish a performance rating scale and define each level. Below is an example:

Level

Definition

1

Can perform this Task satisfactorily but only with considerable assistance

2

Can perform this Task satisfactorily but requires some assistance

3

Can perform this Task satisfactorily with little or no assistance

4

Can perform this Task with efficiency, accuracy, and a high level of quality

3.  Define the skill certification levels. For example, is proficiency of specific tasks required for entry? Is the certification for the intermediate or senior level?

4.  Identify any prerequisites for skill certification, such as job experience and educational qualifications.

5.  Decide how the assessment process will occur. For example, it is a common practice for trained workplace assessors to evaluate performance against the required standard. A knowledge test may also be used as a component of the certification process.

6.  Establish skill certification policies such as the application, skill assessment, certification award and certification maintenance system.

An effective skill certification scheme should ensure that the requirements and process set forth are realistic and relevant to industry needs. This will bring us a step closer to providing the right training for the right people within a reasonable time.

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Tags: competency mapping, skill certification, skills development, skills gap