The 2011/05/30 at 13:15
“The ISO has revolutionised production quality. Today it manages over 15,000 standards. We continually encounter this on a daily basis, even without realising it. Why not give the same guarantees of requirements and skills for human means?” This question asked by Jean-Claude Gaillard, President of the National Certification Committee of the SNIPF (Société Nationale des Ingénieurs Professionnels de France or National Society of Professional Engineers in France), seems to be a legitimate one. Over time, the nature of engineering degrees has evolved and their number rocketed. “Yet how is it possible to assess an ongoing technological watch, one that is compulsory for professions that are primarily technical? This is a problem to which is added the non-recognition of titles overseas, which prevents many opportunities from being realised,” he continues. Positioned to offer an alternative to this problem, the SNIPF delivers, in France, engineering skills certificates for all engineer specialisations representing the professional classifications overseen by the ILO (International Labour Office that represents 265 UN member countries).
A European response
The principle of staff certification is a consequence of the creation of Europe. To implement one of its founding articles, “the free movement of goods and persons”, the European Union initially wished to standardise national academic programmes, essential prior to the study of degree equivalencies between countries. It rapidly gauged the extent of the task, given the great disparities between degree-earning training systems from one country to another. “The standardisation of training programmes is particularly complex as all countries are very attached to the systems in place,” notes Jean-Claude Gaillard. The necessity to create European certification was born from this impossibility of standardisation. “In a world where demands are more and more obvious and where degrees are rarely recognised from one country to another, it was normal to introduce solutions guaranteeing the reliability of experts, just as the ISO 9 001 or ISO 14 001 standards are guarantees of quality,” continues the President. With the certification system, every nation keeps its own academic system and training specificities while finding common ground with other countries. In order for the global “quality chain” to be complete, following the certification of business systems, laboratories and laboratory materials, it was obvious that the certification of the men and women in these structures would be a logical next step.
A global professional passport
“What with different engineering degrees that can follow a variety of curricula, as well as diplomas recognised by the State but not the CTI (French Engineering Titles Committee), the French system is particularly complex and difficult to read for foreign businesses. Certification offers a much clearer reference point based on the actual practice of the engineering profession,” puts forward Jean-Claude Gaillard. To obtain certification, a young qualified engineer must have successfully practised the profession for several years following training. Beyond the colour of the diploma and noting the specialisations on paper, certification allows the validation of different core training courses, qualifying courses and professional experience throughout one’s career. “We certify staff exercising the engineering profession, whether they are holders or not of engineering diplomas. These may be holders of doctorates or postgraduate diplomas. In all cases, their experience in their specialisations has been proven. Certification consists in an ongoing analysis of skills, case by case, at any stage of professional life. To date, we have delivered over 4,200 certifications. Each of these is valid for three years, renewable for a three-year period as long as one continues to practise the profession,” says Jean-Claude Gaillard. Recently, the ecological engineer profession joined the other professions already classified. “Certain certified parties are now up to their fourth certification renewal, showing that this procedure is now completely mature and meets various needs,” adds the President. “At a time where globalisation is at its height, international professional experiences are becoming common currency. Recourse to this solution is entirely interesting in this context.”
Rigour and guarantees
All certification is granted according to rigorous procedures in conformity with the international ISO/CEI 17 024 standard, and is regularly monitored by the COFRAC (the French Accreditation Commission, the only organism in France to have the capacity to deliver accreditations). The SNIPF has been accredited by this organism since March 1997. The accreditations of one country are automatically recognised by other countries, thanks to multilateral agreements linking accreditors between themselves. To date, 196 countries are signatories of ISO Standards (the International Organization for Standardization is based in Geneva, Switzerland). This is therefore a fully developing system that offers strong guarantees for recruiters, whatever country they represent. Today, while an engineer may pursue an overseas career in a foreign company, he or she is obliged to have certification. This cultural concept from Anglo-Saxon countries is now making its way to France. The SNIPF is part of the international context where acquired skills are being validated. “Our objective is to continually work in favour of the international recognition of qualities and the harmonisation of models. By spreading, certification can only have positive consequences on skills deployed in various streams. The system’s winners are employees as much as employers,” concludes Jean-Claude Gaillard.