Certification vs. Experience

Subject: Certification vs. Experience
From: "Grismore, Carolyn" <cgrismore -at- ACCESSLINE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 12:14:11 -0600

Tim Alton wrote:

<<I can't speak for my colleagues, but my own incipient sneer arises
because of my experience with employers who assign complex tech doc
tasks to the halt, the lame, and the blind, so long as any of them can
type. >>

I understand your problem, and have dealt with this myself, but those
halt, lame, and blind were just as often as not engineers as
secretaries. An engineering degree and technical knowledge no more
makes a technical writer than does the ability to type.

<<Part of this is our fault, to be frank. We don't have a profession,
because a profession implies a commonly-accepted set of standards that
must be met before the title can be truthfully applied. In some lines
of work, you can take on a title that an employer hands out, but a
secondary, external group confers another set of initials after your
name that tells the world that you're not just occupying a chair;
you've been tested and found to be sufficiently learned to qualify for
an honored spot in the upper tier. Such a program would have allowed
you to gain the recognition you needed and perhaps drastically shorten
your acceptance time.>>

My problem with what you say is that it implies a belief that the
academic system can come up with standards, tests, etc. that will
enable a person to be fairly evaluated and rated, and that the course
work these people are required to complete is pertinent to the field
they are attempting to enter. I have not found either to be the case
thus far. Most of what I see students learning are things that would
get them fired if they even attempted to do them on a real job, yet
they remain woefully ignorant of the basics of what we do every day.

Should we let STC set the standards? One of their members in Texas
admits on this list that many of their leadership is incompetent. I'm
sure that is true in many other areas as well. Isn't that the blind
leading the blind? What makes these people any different than a
brain-dead employer who is more impressed with a few letters on a
piece of paper than a proven track record and years of successful
performance? And if we had certification, do you think we will be any
more willing to police our own than is the medical profession who
would rather have bad doctors killing patients than admit that some
doctors are not competent?

<<It's still my firm belief that until we in the field finally begin
to define what we do and hold ourselves to an objective standard, we
won't have a profession. Instead, we'll continue to have everything
from stellar lights to dim bulbs, all equally laying claim to the same
job title and muddling our public perception. And we'll bequeath this
sad situation onto the next generation, as well.>>

My final comment here is that what you just stated is also true in
every other profession, even those with high standards and all but
impossible course work and testing. There are stellar doctors and
there are those to whom you would not take a sick cat, but they both
claim the title of doctor. The same is true in academia, science, and
any other profession you care to name. The fact that you have
standards and certification will never prevent the good, the bad, and
the downright ugly in your profession. Only enlightened hiring
practices and employers who can recognize a bodily orifice from a hole
in the ground are going to change that. Personally I don't see that
coming any time soon.

Carolyn Grismore
cgrismore -at- accessline -dot- com

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