It is standard practice in the field of personnel certification to outline qualification requirements as part of the certification process. In addition to such qualification requirements, there also is commonly an element of assessment of such qualification to confirm the knowledge base in question has been adequately acquired. In common terms, this is where the certification examination comes in.
Regarding qualification in preparation for the assessment – or in other words, fulfilling the requirements in preparation for successful examination – people in industry have ease in understanding the need to have received training in the body of knowledge of a specific certification program prior to attempting the exam. It tends to be against human nature to attempt examination in something on which you have not been previously trained. However, training is but one facet of the qualification process in most certification programs, with experience normally being a major component. Field experience is where the knowledge base you’ve been exposed to in training takes shape, is tested and fine-tuned, thus completing the learning curve. This, too, is logical, as most education systems, courses, even life skills, need to be put into practice before anyone truly masters the skills in question.
Yet with the case of many certification programs working alongside theory-based training programs, at times an expectation on the part of candidates exists that attendance to this or that training course would lead to successful certification.
In the particular case of the International Council for Machinery Lubrication, most programs require one or two years of experience in the field for which certification is sought. Even in the case of the Machine Lubricant Analyst Level I program, following ISO 18436-4, where the minimum requirement of years of experience is based on 16 hours per month, ICML still strongly suggests full-time experience in analysis, during the same period length as outlined, before attempting examination.
ICML certification programs were created with a very important mission, that of dignifying the profession of lubrication technicians and oil analysts, ensuring practitioners are respected as the skilled professionals they are, after proving their skills and attaining world-renowned credentials. It is natural in the process of “sorting through the grapes” that the exam be challenging and target passing rates be maintained. In ICML’s case, an overall passing rate of approximately 60 percent of the candidates is right on target. With a prestigious credential that carries a fair, yet challenging examination component, the role played by field experience becomes even greater. It is evident that people with greater experience in the subject areas being tested will tend to do better in the exams, especially considering the practical nature of the certification program’s exam questions – the core of the program is the “where”, “when” and “how” of proper machinery lubrication and oil analysis. Thus, it is logical that if one hasn’t had much chance to witness first hand, by the machine, where, when and how processes and procedures are properly carried out, such person will be at a disadvantage when it comes to approval ratings in the exam, independent of any training course undertaken.
While training is a key component of the qualification and as such a requirement – not only for certification, but even for qualification as an exam candidate – experience plays a very important part. Training is but one aspect of the qualification process and a very useful tool when viewed properly. It is important that candidates taking training as part of a certification program’s qualification process understand that training is just one of the requirements for sitting the exam and that no person should expect to simply attend a course as a means of guaranteed approval. Training, if appropriate and in the relevant body of knowledge of the exam, is a great starting point to expose candidates to the subject areas they will need to master in order to pass the exam; it’s also a great refresher tool for the experienced professional.
It is very important that training is chosen to match the subject areas covered in the body of knowledge of the equivalent chosen certification program. It is crucial that the experience requirements outlined be viewed as minimum requirements; also, that experience be based on best practices after proper training, not on one year of doing things the wrong way repeated many times over. Lastly, it is very important that candidates understand the correlation between the greater the proper, knowledgeable experience, the better chances at approval on examination, vs. the myth that training programs increase approval ratings.
A good, solid course of instruction in the exam’s body of knowledge is very important, but it is not a sole requirement or sure shot at certification. Seek a high-quality training program, apply the knowledge acquired during training in field experience at your workplace, and then and only then, pursue testing.