The Value of ISO 17024 Accredited Certifications for the Home Performance Workforce
February 29, 2012
A version of this article appears in the March/April 2012 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
Federal and state investments as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) laid a strong foundation for a permanent, vibrant home energy efficiency retrofit industry, and a stronger Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). As ARRA spending comes to a close this month, ensuring sustainable employment for the weatherization workforce—whether in the public or in the private sector— will depend on consistent, clear, independent, and rigorous credentials.
The Building Performance Institute (BPI) is working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to expand its nationwide certification program with four new certifications that will meet the international benchmark for personnel certifications across all industries—ISO 17024 accreditation.
Administered by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), ISO 17024 sets requirements for organizations that manage the certification of individuals. It is a global benchmark for certification schemes, developed to ensure that they operate in a consistent, comparable, and reliable manner. ISO 17024 is designed to help certifying organizations conduct well-planned and structured evaluations, using objective criteria for competence and grading to ensure impartiality of operations and to minimize any conflict of interest.
Essentially, ISO 17024 compliance certifies the certifier.
To develop the new certifications, more than 40 industry-nominated volunteers were brought together to create certification blueprints. These blueprints define the general requirements of each certification—prerequisites, exam structure, practicum, and recertification requirements. They are based largely on NREL’s four Job Task Analyses, which were developed and validated by more than 800 industry experts. The certification blueprints were also produced in accordance with the ISO 17024 standard for the quality and rigor of personnel certifications.
BPI was selected, after NREL conducted competitive bidding, to oversee test development and deliver the four new ISO 17024-
accredited certifications in 2012. Neither DOE nor NREL will be directly engaged in the certification of individuals.
The new certifications will not replace or interfere with professional certifications in the building trades, such as HVACR, plumbing, or remodeling. Rather, they are intended specifically to support the four most common weatherization and home performance job roles: retrofit installer, crew leader, energy auditor, and quality control inspector.
Nor will the new certifications do away with existing BPI certifications. Rather, the new certifications will complement and build upon BPI’s existing credentials in the home performance career ladder, where increased knowledge and skills lead to advancement. The goal is, over time, to bring existing BPI certifications under the ISO 17024 process as they are updated, just as existing BPI standards are now being brought under ANSI-accredited American National Standards development protocols as they are updated.
Administered by the ANSI, ISO 17024 sets requirements for organizations that manage the certification of individuals.
Benefits of ISO 17024
The key benefit of accreditation is consistency. Under ISO 17024, each new certification is developed and administered using international best practices, such as cross-disciplinary peer review and industry validation of technical materials. A successful candidate from one geographic region will be verified as having the same knowledge and skills as a successful candidate from another city or another state. This mobility allows certified professionals to go wherever the work is, anywhere in the United States. The development of a single, consistent set of national certifications for weatherization technicians also removes a lot of the existing confusion in the marketplace.
For more information on the DOE Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s Weatherization and Intergovernmental program, visit www.wip.energy.gov/retrofit_
For more about BPI, go to www.bpi.org.
Another benefit is that the new certifications—Auditor, Crew Leader, Inspector, and Installer—are designed to allow professionals to build both a stackable and a lateral career path from existing BPI certifications. An individual may start with the basic knowledge and skills of an installer and over time build up to the more advanced installation and project management skills required of a crew leader. Or a building analyst may take his or her diagnostic and analytical skills and move into a new career where a knowledge of fundamental building science and energy efficiency can lead to executive leadership positions in building operations or sustainability management.
For program administrators, these new certifications—no matter where they are mandated—will provide consistent, independent assurance of individual skills and knowledge across all regions and markets in the United States. This added accountability and reduced risk could contribute to the continued support for energy efficiency incentives and WAP initiatives from all levels of government, from utilities, and from homeowners.
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