Volume 24, Issue 1 (January 1996)
National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies Certification: Addressing the Technician Component of Laboratory Quality
Essential to any quality laboratory operation are its technicians. A laboratory might well meet the accreditation requirements for facilities and equipment, personnel training policies, and management practices but consistent, high-quality operation cannot exist without competent personnel performing the various activities.
The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) offers a means of establishing the knowledge and abilities of laboratory personnel who participate in inspection, sampling, and testing activities. NICET certifies engineering technicians by evaluating work experience, written examination performance, and recommendations by supervisors and other professionals.
The NICET job task competency based certification programs were introduced in 1979. Acceptance by certificants, employers, and regulators has resulted in significant growth in both the number of persons certified and the number of new specialty programs developed.
The NICET approach to certification includes two unique features. One is that the content of a specialty certification program is a collection of modules, each of which encompasses a particular job task (such as determining the air content of freshly mixed concrete by a particular ASTM standard test method) or a specific knowledge area (such as basic mathematics). The other is that the modules are categorized according to increasing levels of knowledge, experience, and responsibility. This arrangement allows the creation of written examinations that support a “career path” from an entry level technician to a senior level technician.
A bonus feature of the NICET approach to testing is that because the modules are narrowly focused, the resulting examination score report can help both the technician and the employer pinpoint strengths and weaknesses. This information permits a more focused training effort rather than a “shotgun” or “A to Z” effort.