Marathon to milestones: new consumer safeguards through standardized training

Just last week I spoke at the Workforce Development Institute annual conference by the American Association of Community Colleges. I shared with them how IREC has shifted into a higher clean energy gear – how new training safeguards are aligned with jobs. Here’s a bit of what I told them, after I welcomed them to the confusing world of credentialing.

The result of a marathon endeavor, IREC reached two national milestones last month.  Together, they offer important new safeguards for energy consumers, industry, students and government. We released IREC’s new Standard 14732:2013 for training programs that offer certificates in the renewable energy and energy efficiency space, and we launched the accreditation program to demonstrate compliance to those requirements, along with our partner the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Our goal – standardized quality training matched with employer needs – facilitates training outcomes that result in marketable, job-related skills.

After 24 months of working with a balanced and vocal committee of subject matter experts; asking the public for three rounds of comments on the standard; developing an assessment scheme with ANSI by drilling down to the multiple elements needed; holding a pilot study and clarifying definitions – we now have a standard to use and an accreditation process in place.

We had to be sure that this epic effort had value in building a strong workforce, with training for safety and quality the highest priorities.  We did not flinch for a minute.   We relished the lively discussions. We tackled the tedious details. And we pushed the envelope further.  Here’s why.

We are seeing growth in the clean energy sector, sometimes not as fast as we would like, but definitely growth.  Grid-tied photovoltaic installations continue their rise, as does U.S. wind capacity.  Spending on energy efficiency programs is expected to double in the next dozen years.  All this leads to more jobs.  We have a lot of training going on around the country – some good training matched to industry-needed competencies and some not-so-good training leading to unclear learning outcomes.  We still struggle with the misrepresentation of certificates as a mark of professional certification.  There is a lack of consistency and a plentitude of confusion.

IREC’s new training standard for certificate programs offers a clear way through this confusion by laying out the requirements for program management, educational processes (instructional design and assessment), and technical content (skills and knowledge taught), with the outcome leading to a market-value certificate.

What is market value? We spent hours debating this.  Basically, we want to see that someone who has gone through the training has learned marketable and job-related skills.  If you go through training and you walk out with a “certificate,” it has to mean something.  A certificate of attendance doesn’t cut it when we are talking about job readiness and market value.

IREC’s new standard and the ANSI-IREC accreditation program is a natural progression in step with the evolution of the training environment, a complement to IREC’s ISPQ 01022 Standard and scheme.  This new standard and assessment process offers all that IREC’s ISPQ program does and more, focused specifically on certificate programs. Both credentials are a hard-earned seal of approval from a third-party, but the bar continues to be raised with this next chapter in IREC’s commitment to quality assurance.

For more information on IREC’s unique credentialing program, which accredits training institutions and certifies instructors in the renewable energy and energy efficiency fields, visitwww.irecusa.org

Jane Weissman

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