Skill Standards:

Experience in Certification Systems Shows Industry Involvement to Be Key

HRD-93-90: Published: May 18, 1993. Publicly Released: May 18, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed existing standards and certification systems in a few selected occupations and identified: (1) their common characteristics; (2) barriers to their development and use; (3) the benefits of skill standards and certification to employers and workers; and (4) actions taken by the federal government concerning skill standards and certification development and use.

GAO found that: (1) common elements among existing certification systems include industry ownership and control, recertification requirements to keep certificate holders' skills current, national portability of credentials, and integration of industry standards with education providers through accreditation programs; (2) obstacles to the development and expanded use of skill standards and certification include the high costs of developing and maintaining certification systems, the time required for system acceptance, difficulties in developing industry coalitions and reaching agreement on standards, the lack of a structure for promoting standards industry-wide, a lack of uniform skill needs, and problems in bringing all stakeholders together to develop these systems; (3) most certification system representatives could not provide evidence that the systems facilitated the hiring and promotion of certified workers, led to wage premiums or additional training opportunities, or increased worker mobility; (4) system representatives had no data to demonstrate the benefit that employers gained by easily identifying qualified workers; (5) the Departments of Labor and Education have acted to support the skill standards and certification process; and (6) federal support and collaboration could foster the broad-based development of skill standards and certification systems.

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