Personnel certification has become an important element of verifying the competence of an increasingly mobile and global workforce, underscoring the value of industry-recognized credentials that can be carried across national borders. In response to this growing need, a new and improved ISO/IEC International Standard aims to harmonize the various procedures used around the world for certifying the competence of personnel in different occupations or professions.

ISO/IEC 17024:2012, Conformity assessment – General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons, provides a global benchmark for personnel certification programmes to ensure that they operate in a consistent, comparable and reliable manner worldwide, thereby allowing individuals to have skills that translate across national lines.

The breadth and scope of certification programmes in existence today is tremendous: programs exist for financial planners, public accountants, safety professionals, non-destructive testing experts, supply and purchasing management professionals, the construction industry, health care professionals and hundreds more.

The updated ISO/IEC 17024:2012 standard will help organizations that certify individuals in a variety of occupations and professions protect the integrity and ensure the validity of individual certification programmes. It will also promote consumer and public confidence in the capabilities and competence of the people who provide specialized services or who create the products that support our daily lives and livelihoods.

In this second edition, the framework outlined in ISO/IEC 17024 has been reviewed and updated to take account of new requirements for personal certification programmes and security-related issues. New criteria for examinations were also added.

The new ISO/IEC 17024 standard addresses the structure and governance of the certifying body, the characteristics of the certification programme, the information required to be available to applicants, and the recertification initiatives of the certifying body. It is designed to help organizations conduct well-planned and structured evaluations in order to ensure impartiality of operations and reduce any conflict of interest.

This version contains requirements for (Certification Body for Persons) in the following areas:

  • General Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons
  • Structural Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons
  • Resource Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons
  • Records and Information Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons
  • Certification Scheme (Development of)
  • Certification Process Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons
  • Management System Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons

The major changes between the 2003 version and the 2012 version is the detailed information regarding the development of the scheme for certification of persons. The 2003 version required the Certification Body to have a Scheme Committee who had overall responsibility for the development of the scheme but did not elaborate on the components that must be included in the scheme. The 2012 version has an entire clause (Clause 8) that provides detailed information regarding the components that must be included in the development and maintenance of the scheme but allows the scheme owner to be outside of the Certification Body for Persons.

Other changes include a change in reference of “Personnel Certification Body” to “Certification Body for Persons”, defining of additional terms such as “validity” and “reliability”, and the addition of a “principles” section that defines the foundational principles for the standard. 

General Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons

This section describes the general requirements for Certification Bodies for Persons. General requirements include criteria for the legal status of the Certification Body for Persons (the certification body must be a legal entity), criteria associated with the financial resources and liability responsibilities of the Certification Body for Persons (the certification body must have sufficient finances to cover its liabilities and for the operation of the entity), requirements regarding the impartiality and impartial operation of the Certification Body for Persons, and requirements that the Certification Body for Persons maintains responsibility for the decision on certification (the decision to award certification to a person cannot be outsourced to any other body).

Structural Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons

This section describes the structural requirements for Certification Bodies for Persons. Structural requirements contain criteria for the organizational structure of the Certification Body for Persons including how it is managed. Specific requirements relating to the structure of the Certification Body in relation to training is included in this section. Specifically, if the certification body also offers training it must demonstrate how the impartiality of the certification is not compromised by the training.

Resource Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons

This section describes the resource requirements for Certification Bodies for Persons. Resource requirements include criteria for the personnel and staff of the Certification Body for Persons. Specific requirements for persons (both internal to the organization and external to the organization such as consultants and volunteers) involved in certification activities are included as are criteria associated with outsourcing to other bodies. This section also includes requirements for other resources such as examination equipment required to operate the certification activities.

Records and Information Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons

This section describes the records and information requirements for Certification Bodies for Persons. The requirements include criteria relating to the records of applicants, candidates and certified persons. Requirements regarding information that must be made public as well as information that must be kept confidential are included in this section and criteria for the information security (exam papers, etc.) are described.

Certification Scheme

This section includes requirements for the development and maintenance of the certification scheme. The certification scheme is the competence and other requirements for awarding the certification to a person and includes a scope of certification, job and task description, required competence, abilities (when applicable), prerequisites (when applicable), and a code of conduct (when applicable). Criteria for the initial certification and re-certification must be part of the scheme and includes description of the assessment methods, and the criteria for suspending and withdrawing the certification.

Certification Process Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons

This section includes requirements for the certification process including criteria for the certification application process, assessment process, examination process, and the decision on certification. Criteria for suspending, withdrawing or reducing the scope of certification and recertification requirements are included in this section. This section also includes requirements for the use of certificates, logos and marks, and requirements associated with appeals and complaints.

Management System Requirements for the Certification Body for Persons

This section requires the Certification Body for Persons to establish, document, implement and maintain a management system capable of supporting the requirements of the standard. A body that has established and maintains a management system in accordance with ISO 9001 and that is capable of supporting ISO/IEC 17024 fulfills the management system requirements of ISO/IEC 17024.

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