A new International Standard aims to harmonize the various procedures used around the world for certifying the competence of personnel in different professions.

It will provide a global benchmark for certification schemes to ensure that they operate in a consistent, comparable and reliable manner worldwide, thus establishing an environment for the mutual recognition of schemes and facilitating the global mobility of personnel.

Today, thousands of certification programmes exist for personnel in practically every industry, in particular in the service sectors, from healthcare personnel and financial planners to safety professionals and non destructive testing operators, as a means of demonstrating their professional ability. One of the functions of the body carrying out certification of persons is to undertake an independent assessment of education/training, experience, demonstrated knowledge and skills applicable to the area for which the certification is awarded. This process is known as a "certification scheme".

The new standard, ISO/IEC 17024, Conformity assessment - General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons, provides a uniform set of guidelines for organizations managing the qualifications and certification of persons, including procedures for the development and maintenance of a certification scheme. It is designed to help bodies operating certification of persons conduct well-planned and structured evaluations using objective criteria for competence and grading in order to ensure impartiality of operations and reduce any conflict of interest.

"To be able to choose a person with the competence needed, or for a person to be able to demonstrate specific competencies, the tool of certification under a defined certification scheme may be particularly useful," said Dr. Thomas Facklam, Chairman of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and convenor of the working group that developed the new standard. "Therefore, ISO/CASCO together with IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) decided to establish a new competence standard defining the requirements for bodies operating the certification of persons."

ISO/IEC 17024 addresses the structure and governance of the certifying body, the characteristics of the certification programme, the information required to be available to applicants, and the recertification initiatives of the certifying body.

"ISO/IEC 17024 should be the basis for the recognition of the certification bodies and their certification schemes, in order to facilitate their acceptance on the national and international levels. Only the harmonization of the system for developing and maintaining certification schemes for persons can establish the environment for mutual recognition and the global exchange of personnel," further noted Dr. Facklam.

The new standard is the work of ISO's Committee on conformity assessment (CASCO) working group 17, Certification of persons, in partnership with the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

Note: Certification activities are not performed by ISO but are carried out by independent specialized inspection and certification bodies, and testing laboratories. ISO's mission is to develop International Standards, not to verify that ISO standards are being implemented by users in conformity with the requirements set out in its standards.