Training Certificates Mean More When Accreditation Assures Quality and Value

By Lane Hallenbeck, Vice President, Accreditation, American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

In high-consequence industries such as petroleum, small mistakes can become expensive incidents or dangerous – even fatal – disasters. And in many accidents, human error is a cause. Effective training significantly reduces errors and risk… but how can you be sure a training program is effective?

Certificates: A Sea of Confusion

Since the 1980s, the number of education and training certificates awarded in the U.S. each year has skyrocketed more than 800 percent, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. And with good reason: certificate programs can provide a cost-effective and time-efficient way to enhance skills.

But this deluge has also fueled confusion among students, workers, job seekers, and employers over the relative values and differences between thousands of certificates in the market. Job seekers often can’t tell which certificates will actually result in effective learning of critical skills, or how to differentiate among certificate programs with varying levels of rigor. Employers aren’t sure that workers or job candidates really know what a piece of paper claims they do. This is where standards and accreditation step in, to assess and strengthen certificate programs, and demonstrate quality to the entire workforce.

A Call for Quality

In 2007 a number of governmental agencies and consumers expressed concern to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) that there weren’t nationwide benchmarks or oversight processes consistently applied to entities that offer education-based certificates. In response, in 2009 a globally recognized American National Standard for quality, ANSI/ASTM E2659, Standard Practice for Certificate Programs, was created. 

This standard defines the characteristics of a high-quality certificate program – whether the program addresses equipment operators, engineers, auditors, safety experts, or any other type of personnel or professional. It also requires that a training program meets predefined industry requirements for content, follows predetermined processes, includes constant feedback for quality improvement, and clearly delineates outcomes.

But even the best standard is only as good as its deployment. To assess reliable conformance to the requirements of the ANSI/ASTM E2659 standard for certificate programs, ANSI developed its Certificate Accreditation Program – ANSI-CAP.

ANSI-CAP: The Gold Standard

If a certificate program has earned ANSI-CAP accreditation, students, employers, customers, and policy makers can all have confidence that the certificates awarded represent high-quality education and training. ANSI-CAP accreditation attests that the certificate stands for something of value and that the holder has differentiated him or herself from the crowd by earning it.

The ANSI accreditation process is a robust approach that evaluates a certificate program’s policies, procedures, and operations over time and helps establish and maintain a plan of action to comply with the requirements of the ANSI/ASTM E2659 standard. And the ANSI accreditation process is itself based on a rigorous international standard (ISO/IEC 17011), assuring that it conforms to exemplary global norms and represents best practices in accreditation.

ANSI-CAP’s benefits span the entire workforce, including:

  • Demonstrating to the public that a certificate program meets or exceeds a quality standard for learning.
  • Delivering skilled/educated workers aligned with workforce needs.
  • Fostering trust and proven value in certificate programs.
  • Adding attention and prestige to a certificate program.
  • Enhancing certificate-holders’ credibility for obtaining employment or advancement.
  • Helping a certificate program keep its policies, procedures, operations, and faculty up to date and in line with current knowledge and best practices.

ANSI’s Certificate Issuers' Accreditation Workshop provides an introduction to the process and requirements for developing a quality, outcome-based education/training course.

Who cares?
Quick answer: everybody should – especially in high-risk industries, where quality training has such  critical impact. And more and more employers and regulators are looking for ANSI accreditation to assure that a certificate program provides effective learning (see more on recognition of ANSI Accreditation).

Third-party accreditation is a key component of a quality certificate program, and it’s a win-win-win-win-win…. for employers, certificate issuers, policy makers, students and job seekers, industry, and the entire workforce. Without accreditation, quality training certificates can be lost in a confusing sea of uncertainty, and that can make for some dangerous waters.



The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and quality of life by promoting, facilitating, and safeguarding the voluntary standards and conformity assessment system. ANSI is the official U.S. member to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and, via the U.S. National Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and represents the U.S. in the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and all major regional and global standards and accreditation forums.

For more on how ANSI accreditation can strengthen oil and gas industry training programs, visit www.ansi.org/petroleum.

For the full portfolio of ANSI accreditation programs, visit www.ansi.org/accreditation.