Competent personnel along with up-to-date practices are essential for quality engineering, construction and maintenance services. Deciding on whether an individual has the knowledge, skill and ability needed to satisfactorily perform identified tasks can be done via a multitude of processes which offer varying degrees of reliability and discrimination. A convenient and highly reliable method to determine the individual's competence is acceptance of a third-party evaluation of the individual's knowledge and skills.
One such third-party evaluation is the job-task competency-based engineering technician certification model which was developed by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) during 1976–1979 in fulfillment of a contract with the FHWA to provide “a nationwide system for enrolling, testing and certifying technicians in engineering activities related to transportation”.
The foundation of the NICET certification model is a “Practice Analysis.” A technical advisory panel representing the industry concerned identifies and develops a NICET-certified technician profile, typical job assignments and responsibilities, and specific job tasks along with the respective time frame during which the technician should become proficient in these tasks. An industry wide validation is then conducted which refines scope and content of the certification program. Exam questions are written by practitioners to reflect on-the-job skills and knowledge of individuals from the entry level (or trainee) through the more advanced (senior) and supervisory levels. Finally, a pilot test is conducted using a representative group from the potential program users to determine the appropriateness of the exam questions.
The requirements for NICET certification are somewhat unique in that more is required than just meeting an examination requirement. Equal weight is also placed on satisfying requirements for relevant work history and for verification of actual on-the-job performance by a supervisor. This model has been in use nationwide for the past twenty years and has been proven to be an effective, reliable, fair, flexible and efficient tool for evaluating the competency of engineering technicians.