Be certification-savvy: Should you spend the time and money to get your people certified?

In this Big Picture Interview, make sure that certification really means something for your company and your career.

Jeff Shiver is president and CEO of People and Processes Inc., a Yulee, FL-based consulting and education services firm that guides organizations to achieve maintenance and reliability best practices globally. He’s also member services director for the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP). In March, Shiver spoke with Plant Services at the University of Tennessee Reliability and Maintainability Center’s MARCON 2017 event in Knoxville about the value of professional certifications and how organizations can use them to advance their reliability efforts.

PS: You’ve worn a lot of hats in your career. How does that inform your work now guiding people and organizations in their own reliability initiatives?

JS: I spent 20 years at Mars and first was in contract engineering, and then after that was in basically every (role) from reliability technician and maintenance technician to controls technician, controls engineer. I built a plant in Columbia, SC. I worked in four different plants and held different corporate roles, too – continuous improvement manager, maintenance manager, operations manager. In 2006, we started People and Processes.
I started with SMRP back when I was working as a continuous improvement manager for Mars. I became certified and got active in the organization. Then with People and Processes, we’ve always proctored the CMRP exam and some others as well. This past October I became member services director for the society, and that was a great honor to be able to do that, to have another way to serve.

PS: For employers, why would it be worthwhile from a reliability perspective to spend time and money to get your people certified, and whom should you target for certification?

JS: I’ll always remember attending an SMRP conference and having a presenter who happened to be for a global organization that is very strong in maintenance and reliability practices. And I asked the question: “When you did your presentation, you said you had a 70% pass rate. When I worked for Mars, we were running in the 90-some-odd percent rate.” And he shared something with me that I thought made a tremendous world of sense. He said, “You know, Jeff, we put everybody through the certification – operators, operations managers, plant managers, other people. And what we’re doing with that is we’re actually encouraging people to learn. We use it as a tool to educate our people.” So the 70% pass rate for them was really good; they were transitioning the culture as part of that.

PS: That’s really interesting, the idea of using certification prep as an education tool, even if not everyone will pass the exam. Given the variety of certification options out there, how can you decide which is most worthwhile to pursue? And how is the certification landscape changing?

JS: We’ve had a kind of blossoming of certifications, if you will, in the last few years. Unfortunately, many of them are not necessarily value-added. We see a lot of certifications coming out – call them badges, call them certifications – and there’s really no investment. Maybe you attend a half-day workshop, and now you’re “certified.” It makes it very difficult to separate the ones that actually have value.

(In evaluating them) I’d look at one, the tenure – how long it has been around? Another way is you can look at the job boards. For example, from a maintenance standpoint, a lot of (job posts) will say “CMRP preferred.” I look and say, OK, what’s the history and the longevity of this certification, and are employers requesting it?

PS: For younger manufacturing workers and those new to the industry, what would you say about the value of certification and how it might fit in their career path?

JS: The benefit of the certification from an employment perspective is that it quantifies your knowledge. Many newer people (would like) to start where they’re making close to $150,000 a year and they jump into an experienced maintenance position, but many companies don’t do that. They want to start you maybe at a smaller plant (where) there’s a lot of opportunity to implement, develop, and actually show success. You can do a tremendous amount of work in two years. The certification validates that. Certification clearly makes you more marketable, provided it’s the right certification.

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