In the March 7, 2016, issue of Canadian HR Reporter, I was quoted in a story about the new accreditation program from the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA) bypassing the National Knowledge Exam (NKE) to acquire the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP). I feel some additional comment is required.
The idea of accrediting schools as a qualifier for professional designations is not new — Ontario has required CHRP candidates to take approved courses for decades. But in Ontario, taking an approved course or program doesn’t lead to any sort of exemption — it simply allows someone to start the process of acquiring the “professional” designation.
If the goal of accreditation as an exemption is to simply increase association membership, this new program will likely work. Unfortunately, it is an insult to all who have come before and diminishes the quality of designation holders.
Why? The current national pass rate for the NKE hovers around 60 per cent, according to results on the Human Resources Institute of Alberta’s website. Rather than weeding out the 40 per cent of the candidates who fail, accreditation would bypass vigorous “professional” evaluation and allow all 100 per cent in.
It may be argued not all exam candidates have had HR-related education, and that skews the pass/fail rate, but this is not supported by evidence. Ontario, with the highest academic standards, has historically had the lowest pass rate.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but the NKE (now the Comprehensive Knowledge Exam or CKE1 in Ontario) was never meant to simply re-test academics. That would denigrate those who acquired HR-related academic certificates and their schools.
Finally, the CCHRA “at source” accreditation program is in direct opposition to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), standard 1100 which defines the requirements of meeting the ANSI standard for being a certifying organization. According to ANSI, a professional certifying organization must meet two requirements:
•Grant a time-limited credential to anyone who meets the assessment standards.
• Provide an assessment based on industry knowledge, independent from training courses or course providers.
The NKE has always been intended to test “professional” competency, as defined by a competency framework of industry knowledge.
As such, it was meant to test candidates on the application of their academic knowledge — what you need to do in order to be a successful HR professional.
Other questions arise: How will accreditation work? Will universities and colleges across Canada co-operate, given the need for homogeneous courses and content?
Who will provide the standardized assessment of the courses? Will real standards be met across provincial boundaries? How often will courses be re-asessed? What if the process finds a course inadequate?
This program is likely a quick ride to mediocrity as accredited schools will now be incented to pass students with the required grades. I challenge accredited schools to benchmark their current pass rates at the required 70 percentile now versus five years from now — I predict a “graduation creep.”
It is entirely reasonable that the member associations of CCHRA continue to work to develop the CHRP and make it responsive to members’ and society’s needs. After all, they are trying to hold together a national standard.
But this accreditation program is going in entirely the wrong direction. It weakens the designation and changes the focus from that of a professional designation based on industry knowledge to one that solely reflects academic achievement.
Haven’t we been working for over 30 years to make the practice of HR more practical and professional? This initiative fails that test.
Ian Turnbull is managing director at management consultants Laird & Greer in Toronto.
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