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I would say certifications (or education, or experience, etc.) are often used when there is no measurable objective for the contractor to achieve, as is often the case in professional support services contracts. So the logic is likely "we want someone to sit here and work on this, but we can't really define the outcome of the work, so we at least want someone trained/experienced/certified." I'm not saying it's necessarily a good idea, or a good way to contract, but that's generally the thought process I hear.

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On 8/9/2021 at 3:22 PM, CR123 said:

What is the core reason(s) or logic for doing so?

Sometimes there is/isn't reason or logic. Depends what is needed. Examples:

1 - The requirement is to have a doctor on call to do emergency surgeries for an ER at a VA. Might be a good idea to require a M.D. and five years of experience doing the same. Makes sense and is probably a good thing to require. 

2 - The requirement is to have a service employee go through an unoccupied office building leased by GSA and make sure all electrical outlets work. You could require a certified electrical engineer do the work, but is probably good enough to have a kid fresh out of high school walk through with small desk lamp and just have him plug it in and see what happens (Quality Control - make sure the light works prior to beginning). 

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Random thoughts, all may not stick.....

Personal or organization bias....sort of already alluded to in other comments.

Statutory compliance - Using a electrician that is not certified may be a violation of state or local laws,   Probably some with with regard to Federal law but I would have to really dig to find an example but no doubt there is one that exists.  Maybe.....CO certification?1?

Industry standard - My recollection is that in a deep dive of ISO there is discussion of certification based on competences rather than qualifications.

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See "A Brief History of Certification" by Calvin Harper, at https://testoutce.com/blogs/it-insights-blog/160401479-a-brief-history-of-certification. Certifications date back to the medieval guilds. Today, it reflects the creeping professionalization of so many jobs, which began in the 1960s.

They are now standard fare of professional associations, such as the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) and others.

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@Vern Edwards - You couldn't possibly be implying that such things can be self-serving and have nothing to do with the actual quality of work being provided - 😁...

"Certifications are also found in almost every country. Even the defunct Soviet Union had their own cert — the State Quality Mark of the USSR, which was used to certify that goods produced were of “higher quality. Ironically, the Kremlin would lease the certification mark to factories allowing them to charge 10 percent more for their products — so much for equality of the proletariat."

 

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@Constricting OfficerI think that the value of a certification depends on the basis for earning it. Test-based certifications can establish that a person knows certain things, usually things they studied to prepare for the test. But if the work requires more than just knowledge, then I don't think they're worth much. The bar exam for lawyers tests knowledge of law, a prerequisite for a license to practice, but that does not mean that someone who passes the bar exam can prepare a good appellate brief in a capital punishment case or a patent infringement case. It takes years to achieve that level of skill, but fewer for some than for others.

If the heart of the work is to apply knowledge creatively and effectively in the performance of a task, then, in my opinion, tests that rely on multiple choice questions are of very limited worth. What would interest me about a person who pursued a voluntary certification, like a CPCM, is that they had the ambition to do that. I would not assume that they possess any particular level of knowledge or skill.

Professional associations love certifications, though. They bring in dues and fees and provide them with a raison d'être, which ensure their staffs of continued employment.

You can judge the quality of a professional association by the quality of its official publications. I belong to several professional associations. The Society for Risk Analysis produces Risk Analysis, its peer-reviewed official journal, which regularly publishes high quality articles. Another society that publishes high quality articles is the American Historical Society, which produces the American Historical Review. There are many such first-rate professional associations.

What do you think of Contract Management magazine? How about the Journal of Contract Management?

In the days of the medieval craft guilds (as opposed to merchant guilds) an apprentice had to study under a master for some period of time in order to earn journeyman status, which was prerequisite to master status. Master status required that a journeyman demonstrate to masters the knowledge and skill of a craft master. In contracting we talk of OJT rather than apprenticeship. Unfortunately, we have few masters. Far too few to provide all trainees with good OJT. That's why cut and paste, rather than true creativity, is the driving force in our field.

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On 8/11/2021 at 10:41 AM, Vern Edwards said:

What do you think of Contract Management magazine? How about the Journal of Contract Management?

They are fine and I have nothing negative to say about them. That being said, I also do not follow them closely. I work more in a contract management role now than in the past so maybe I will follow more closely moving forward. 

I prefer a forum of this type (WIFCON) more because it produces diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. 

On 8/11/2021 at 10:41 AM, Vern Edwards said:

Unfortunately, we have few masters. Far too few to provide all trainees with good OJT. That's why cut and paste, rather than true creativity, is the driving force in our field.

I agree, but we need the cut and paste people as well. I believe they are referred to as purchasing agents. "Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians" comes to mind. Where the balance is I have no idea and would suggest changes by the mission, administration and time period. Two "Master" COs and a procurement team can put together a $100 Billion IDIQ and then the "cut and paste" brigade can place DO/TOs against it for 20 years. 

Perhaps instead of the term OJT, "Masters" should seek out the future "Masters"  and train them to take their places. Leave the normal required training and the front line managers to take care of the "cut and paste" group. 

All are not created equal. 

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Recently, I had a conversation with a American-born Master in Chinese Kung Fu.  I asked him what degree black belt he is, since that was my frame of reference for martial arts in the US.  We were on a small riverboat and he was the deckhand, so he was stuck with me (and I with his bad jokes).  He told me there were only three ranks, the last being Master.  Masters have practiced literally their whole lives.  He then said the American dojos all moved to a degrees-within-the-belt system because, at best, we like to see our progress.  At worst, we are impatient: the alternative to quit before achieving Master would occur too often, hence the "1st degree", "2nd degree" and so on black belts were created.  I remember my middle-American dojo even had little white strips they put on the lower-level belts to show progress toward the next level!  It only took a year each belt!

That reminds me, I think I am due a Step increase soon 😁🤑

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  • 2 weeks later...

For many projects, employee certifications and other qualifications don’t really matter that much.  Really doing solid past performance research is often a better indicator of potential success.  By that I don’t mean asking offerors for references (their friends) or looking at CPARS (in many cases a waste of time).  I mean actually doing research on their performance, talking to people without a canned script that can’t be deviated from, and even visiting sites and doing impromptu interviews with users for significant efforts.

A company can have a large staff of people with certifications, advanced degrees, and years of experience but deliver poor work.  So many other factors come into play.

 

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