I recently read a blog comment from an instructor in a well-known functional safety personnel certification program. The instructor bragged that for the last X courses, 100% of the students passed. In this program a course and an exam are developed by independent consultants who give the course, give the exam, and grade the exam. The certification agency collects the names and issues a certificate based on the pass/fail information from the instructor. Is there a real conflict of interest here? Is the 100% pass rate a metric that one should brag about?
This kind of program violates many of the requirements of ISO 17024, the international standard for personnel certification programs. These requirements in ISO 17024 exist for good reason. What about the conflict of interest where an instructor who collects money for training grades the exam? Sounds like a “pay for certificate program.“ Even if those involved have high integrity with no bias, it is still a questionable arrangement, particularly because the goal of a personnel certification program is for someone to demonstrate their true competence. What if we were talking about the medical profession here? How comfortable would you feel going to a doctor that participated in this kind of program?
This kind of program could create “paper tigers 1 .” When I look to hire new engineers, I want to make sure I hire a real tiger, not one on paper. I wonder if other employers agree?
1 An individual who bears a designation but appears unable to perform competently is often referred to as a “paper tiger.” This is because their resume suggests that they are more effective than they really are.