The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 26, Number 5
Jul 2003


ISO Developing Standard for Certification of Persons: ISO/IEC 17024

By Penny Silberhorn, Manager of the Conformity Assessment Division of Canadian General Standards Board

In recent years, the face of many professions has changed dramatically. Globalization, altered demographics and the explosion of innovations in information technology have created new opportunities and challenges, and new occupations have arisen to meet the demand. More and more, governments, businesses and an increasingly savvy public are seeking proof of competence through the certification of new and existing professions.

In response to this need for certification, the International Organization for Standardization, Conformity Assessment Subcommittee (ISO/CASCO) initiated the development of ISO/IEC 17024, General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons. This new standard provides a benchmark for certification bodies offering certification of persons in any occupation and facilitates accreditation by national bodies.

Since 1999, the CGSB has supported the development of this standard by sponsoring me as the Canadian delegate to CASCO Working Group (WG) 17, the committee responsible for the standard's development. The committee comprised members from the Americas, the United Kingdom, Europe and the Pacific Rim. While attending the meetings, I represented the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), Canada's ISO member body, and brought the Canadian position to the table.

The last meeting of WG 17 was held in June 2002. Publication of the standard is expected by January 2003, after a final round of public consultation. Once completed, many certification bodies will be adopting the standard as a basis of operations, and the SCC will implement the standard by offering accreditation to certification bodies operating certification programs for persons.

This comprehensive standard lays out the general operating requirements for the certification body, including provisions for a management system. It describes conditions for application, examinations, surveillance and recertification. And, it specifies the requisites for independence of training from certification, confidentiality of information, competence of staff and subcontractors, and the need for stakeholder input into certification schemes.

ISO/IEC 17024 is intended as a framework for certification bodies operating a certification program for persons and as the standard against which an accreditation body can accredit the certification body. The standard itself is not enough to certify a person. It is designed to be used in conjunction with a "scheme standard," which lays out the education, knowledge, skills and experience requirements that a certified person in each occupation would be expected to meet.

As interest in the standard grows, I have had many opportunities to introduce the standard and the concepts for developing a resulting certification program to various groups in the last year. I've given presentations to diverse interests, ranging from organizations representing small groups of public sector employees exploring the kind of recognition and status certification would give them, to Treasury Board-sponsored committees considering certification as part of modern comptrollership. Perhaps the largest and most diverse audience attended the presentation at the National Standards System Conference hosted by the SCC last March. This audience comprised public and private standards and certification organization representatives and other related professionals.

There has been great interest in the standard by many professions and occupations and the bodies that currently certify them or will in the near future, and with good reason. By harmonizing the certification process, the standard will provide a basis for international recognition agreements and will promote the global exchange of personnel. It will enable people to expand their career horizons and have their credentials recognized outside of their own country or jurisdiction. A valuable tool indeed!

For more information about CGSB Certification and Qualification Programs or standards, contact the CGSB Sales Centre at: Place du Portage III, 6B1, 11 Laurier Street, Hull, Quebec K1A 1G6 CANADA.
Telephone: (819) 956-0425 or 1-800-665-CGSB
Fax: (819) 956-5644

Reprinted with permission from Calibre, Winter 2002 issue.


Dr. Steven Spivak commented on the probable effect of ISO/IEC 17024 in the ISO Bulletin, September 2002: "Recently I attended the first ANSI (USA) training seminar on accreditation for personnel certification organizations, using ISO/IEC 17024. Two outcomes were most evident. First, the range and diverse nature of certification organizations attending was impressive. They ran the gamut from certifications representing professional cleaners and restorers, to glass installers and vibration measurement; from speech and hearing specialists, to health professionals in acupunture and oriental medicine. Also present were organizations now providing third party accreditation (prior to ISO/IEC 17024) for certification schemes and organizations. They all represent personnel in vital day-to-day services we often take for granted, or "overlook" in importance. Second, many certifying organizations and service industries already operate at the regional and international level, notwithstanding where their headquarters are located. In ISO and IEC tradition, it is future mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) among certifications for persons, acting to facilitate the seamless, international trade in service, that will become a lasting benefit of ISO/IEC 17024.

For his article on "Providing Assurance of Professional Services," go to <http://www.iso.ch/iso/en/commcentre/isobulletin/bulletin.html>.

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