Carliner, Saul. “Certification and the Branding of HRD.” Human Resource Development Quarterly 23, no. 3 (2012): 411-19.
Saul Carliner suggests that human resource development (HRD) is a growing professional area, but lacks official certification programs to train new HRD professionals. He uses this article to discuss what training programs are available and how these programs and aid the development of HRD professionals.
While the link between HRD professionals and technical communicators may seem tenuous, many of the arguments Carliner presents are applicable to the state of technical communication today. Carliner’s definition of a certification as “the validation of demonstrated competence in a particular field by a third-party assessor” is an important milestone. While there are numerous technical communication degree programs that allow students to demonstrate competence in many areas of technical communication, there are currently few avenues for technical communicator practitioners to establish an official demonstrated competence of their technical communicator abilities.
For technical communication to be taken seriously as a profession, certification programs need to be available and with the 2007-2009 work by Nancy Coppola to establish a broad body of knowledge, elements are in place to produce certification programs. With certification programs in place, practitioners can earn certification and are given avenues to maintain current skills and learn new skills, especially in a field as rapidly evolving as technical communication.
Carliner’s article is an example of how numerous certification programs can work together to engage the field and provide an aura of professionalization that provides authenticity and legitimacy to the profession.
Should Technical Communicators consider themselves “Human Resource Development Practitioners? Why or Why Not?
Turner, Roy K., and Kenneth T. Rainey. “Certification in Technical Communication.” Technical Communication Quarterly 13, no. 2 (2004): 211-34.
In this considerable article, Turner and Rainey discuss the debate of how to best certify technical and professional communicators. Turner and Rainey position the debate as an ethical issue: a profession, if it is to be judged a profession, must have a mechanism by which the profession can be judged and held accountable for its work. All other respected professions have their crediting agencies so for technical communicators to call themselves professionals, they must have some form of certification, licensure, or accreditation. Without such certification, customers may cast doubt over the quality of work offered as there is little visible guarantee that a technical communicator can complete even the simplest of tasks effectively or accurately.
Rather than descend into a circular argument about whether certification or accreditation produces better workers, Turner and Rainey instead ask, “What does the absence of a competencies assessment say about the profession?”. They conclude that the lack of a competencies assessment “tarnishes” the profession by suggesting the profession’s leaders are irresponsible, and that by keeping the public ill informed means the public have little idea about the professional competencies of the profession’s practitioners.
Ultimately, Turner and Rainey believe that an objective, fair, and meaningful system of certification will greatly benefit the profession of technical communication as well as individual technical communication professionals. Especially when compared to other recognized professions, technical communicators owe an ethical obligation to their potential customers and consumers to show an objective, fair, and meaningful certification system.
How do you assess the best way to train technical communicators?