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Informational Package for Agencies


Building a competent workforce is vital in any industry if it hopes to survive and compete in the marketplace with its products and services. This should be no less true in the human service field, where the product happens to be the welfare of children and families. As the focus on services becomes more "outcome" based, possessing a competent staff will become increasingly more important for agencies. Professional certification is an important component of building a skilled staff throughout an organization that recognizes the key role staff play in achieving outcomes for children, families and vulnerable adults.

The National Center for Professional Certification (NCPC) was created to assist agencies in developing competent staff by a unique process of one-to-one, on-the-job coaching based on internationally recognized standards of competence in a given occupational area of practice. Based on the National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) established in the mid-1980's in the United Kingdom.

NCPC is a collaborative of agencies sharing a common vision to develop a nationally recognized certification system. The goal is to create a credential is portable across states and organizations. This strategy was developed in the United Kingdom and is now available in 110 countries around the world. Results have been dramatic in improving competence for professionals and managers caring for vulnerable populations.

NCPC Partnership with Agencies

Our Goal
To improve the workforce in organizations serving children, youth, families and adults based on certification of competence and improved performance management:
  • to provide quality, caring services for children, youth, families, and adults,

  • to provide monthly individual training/coaching/mentoring for every employee designed to improve performance and increase retention of staff.
This approach allows organizations to:
  • develop capacity to assess competence and develop their employees,
  • develop the capacity to offer a professional credential in the workplace.
  • take responsibility to improve practice.
  • provide resources to develop managers and support staff in human service organizations.

Rationale for Professional Certification

In The Workforce Crisis in Child Welfare, published by the Child Welfare League of America (2000), it was noted that "Part of the process of ensuring the well-being of our nation's most vulnerable children is securing a stable pool of qualified, committed, and well trained workers who contribute to the goals of child welfare… On all fronts, child welfare agencies - public and private - are experiencing extraordinary high turnover rates, low employee morale, and stifling competition from other human service sectors."

In this publication the roles of both education and professional development in recruiting and retaining a skilled, competent workforce were examined by CWLA. It found "one of the most serious facets of direct service child and youth care work is the lack of educational programs designed to prepare workers. As a result, agencies must hire workers who are woefully unprepared for these critical positions and responsibilities. Not only do they lack the many skills needed to perform these difficult jobs, they often have little understanding of the nature of the work they will be doing or of the professional context in which the work will be done… this situation results in a great deal of stress on agencies, as they must try to provide the needed training on the job, and workers, who must often function for long periods of time without many of the essential tools for getting the job done right."

Professional certification of staff at all levels of a child and family service agency does precisely this: it provides a proven, internationally recognized employee development system reflecting best practice standards. It is both competency based and accomplished on the job, over time, with coaching and support from the candidate's assessor, who themselves have been judged to be both occupationally qualified and skilled in the professional development process.

Evaluation Findings

An independent evaluation from 1998 - 2000 findings include that the professional certification process:
  • improves the climate of the work place,
  • fosters greater job satisfaction,
  • increases self-esteem,
  • improves relationships among co-workers and between workers and supervisors,
  • improves supervisory and management skills,
  • leads to improved job performance,
  • develops a keener understanding of job roles and responsibilities,
  • increases awareness and understanding of the knowledge that provides the foundation for the skills used daily in work.

NCPC Assessment Model

By definition, NCPC certification means that an individual has demonstrated the use of best practice knowledge and skills during the performance of their duties in the workplace. Thus, this model of certification exceeds customary paper and pencil certifications that do not predict, influence or document the use of specific practices in the workplace. This characteristic lies at the heart of the model's utility and power.

NCPC has based its approach on the NVQ process used in the United Kingdom, which results in an "award" that certifies individuals as competent in specific practice areas. This method applies a specific set of competency standards with measurement criteria. The system provides for certifying individuals through a standardized assessment process designed to evaluate performance on the job. Within the framework a concept was devised to:
  1. Clearly articulate each quality standard or competency an employee would need to demonstrate in order to perform satisfactorily on the job in a work setting,

  2. Provide a common assessment methodology, and

  3. Recognize attainment of competency through tangible awards that are portable across organizations and jobs.

Professional Certification in Operation

When implemented, the system has two distinct components that include:
  1. Clearly articulated quality competency standards
    • Competency standards are developed for a practice area, such as management, child welfare or residential group care, by a cross section of professionals in the field; the primary focus is on the employer's needs.

    • Competency standards are approved by consortium from the practice area for which they are developed (including but not limited to universities, professionals, experts, stakeholders, practitioners, etc.)

    • Competency standards are then structured into professional roles and functions within the practice area. These roles and functions are then delineated into units of professional competence.

    • Competency standards provide the performance and knowledge framework required to achieve desired outcomes for people to achieve in the actual environment.

  2. Common Assessment Methodology
    Assessors are required to obtain certification in order to make judgements about competence of professionals. Assessors work under supervision for several months. During Assessor certification process, assessors learn:
    1. to help candidates seeking certification, and
    2. to provide consistent, uniform assessment.
    • Assessment is conducted by examining a candidate portfolio which may include:
      1. Active demonstration of skill on the job by:
        • on-the-job observation by the assessor,
        • witness testimony,
        • product or record reviews,
        • written reflections from candidate on the work and practice.
      2. Documentation of underpinning knowledge not demonstrated otherwise through interviews with assessors or written questioning

    • Assessment is conducted over time through the collection of evidence, and a candidate must show consistent practice to the standards, not just one time compliance.

    • Candidates may achieve partial certifications-finishing certain units but not the entire scope of units.
Assessors are work based; in other words each organization develops its own assessment capacity. It is preferable that the assessor be the candidate's supervisor. A consultant from NCPC, who is responsible for keeping the assessor current on assessment practice and who initially provides regular training to ensure uniform assessment support each assessor. NCPC consultant will observe assessors at least once per year as they work with candidates to ensure adherence to best practice in assessment.

For More Information Contact:
Tamara Ard
Executive Director
(706) 221-1990

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