When you start a presentation or a report with terms that mean different things to different people, chances are you’re not going to be successful in getting your point across.  While making sure we use clearly defined and understandable terms seems intuitive, it doesn’t always happen.  The clean energy community has a ways to go to make sure we’re all talking the same language.  But, there are good moves on the horizon.

The poster child is the huge confusion crater caused by the misunderstanding between professional certifications and certificate holders.  Seemingly similar, they’re not. But they are often used interchangeably.

At first glance, it might not appear to be a big deal, but since professional certification implies workplace competency and certificates are the result of learning (training and education),  each one is a different indicator of job knowledge and performance.

stick figure thinking and looking at a question mark
I wave the white flag as this confusion stubbornly persists. It really is up to the credentialing industry to figure out the best way to address the certification vs certificate mix-up.  And, add in the new terms of micro-credentials and badges, and we’re bound to hit more potholes without clear and consistent definitions.

However, the move to common credentialing terminology is happening.  A recently released Energy Efficiency Standardization Roadmap, lead by the American National Standards Institute, includes a chapter on workforce credentials.  One recommendation is that “Standards and industry-accepted credentialing and workforce terminology should be used to avoid confusion and promote understanding.”

Continuing the drum beat, the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce’s recent report on “Making a Market for Competency-Based Credentials” also calls for common and consistently used definitions to achieve a “shared language.”  Other national efforts are echoing the call.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office is also tackling the art of language by translating building science terms that will more effectively convey concepts and experiences for the consumer.  Three cheers.  This new “glossary” will go far in integrating building science terms into consumer practices.

Over the years, we’ve gotten many pointers from Tor Valenza, “Solar Fred,” on marketing and messaging in his Renewable Energy World articles.  We should remember these valuable tips as we collectively work to better define our language and communicate.

Shifting gears just a bit, The Solar Foundation sent a very clear message with its recent release of the 2013 Job Census. The census found 19.9 percent growth in solar employment since September 2012. That represents the addition of 23,682 solar jobs over the previous year – a total 142,698 Americans employed in the industry in 2013. In fact, solar employment grew 10-times faster than the national average employment growth rate of 1.9 percent in the same period.

Before I sign off, I want to welcome two new IREC Board members. Eric Martin from the Florida Solar Energy Center brings us energy efficiency and building science expertise and John Hoffner from CH2M Hill returns to the board offering us important strategic guidance.

We also welcome Cheri Olf to our IREC Team as the project manager for our new New York workforce development activities.  Cheri brings a dynamic professional background of workforce development at Boston University and renewable energy experience while at ACORE.

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