June 6, 2019
Competence testing is going electronic
Green industry skill certification, like everything else, is changing. Over the next several months, some modules of Canadian horticultural certification programs will migrate away from practical and written exams, to an online system. Affected modules include Hardscape and Softscape Installation, and Ornamental and Turf Maintenance. The U.S.-based National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) made this decision, and Canada needs to consider its options as the current program in Canada is currently licensed from NALP.
This move can be a good news story for the green trades, while also causing concern.
Everyone realizes that online training is great — but for the practical aspects of being able to prove that you can fix an irrigation head, or splice a line, or that you can make those pavers go in a straight line, it’s hard to beat a ‘live’ test. As the LIC program is the only practical test currently available, its loss will make proof that the candidate knows how to splice that line ‘in real life’ very hard to determine.
On the other hand, with NALP putting its program online, it WILL reach a broader audience, and potentially bring in more recruits, which the industry desperately needs. So the reason for the program may shift to one of an introductory course to landscaping, rather than to prove skills. However, NALP still has the new program under development, so it may be that they can anticipate where the issues might be.
All of us in the industry — associations, educators, employers and employees — should reassure those currently working to achieve certification that their efforts are worthwhile. Continue to collect your credentials! Written and practical tests under the current system will be offered across Canada through the end of 2019. In-progress and potential new candidates should check with their provincial association for upcoming test dates.
In discussions with Jeff Foley, CNLA Professional Development Committee Co-Chair, CNLA is looking at options to integrate aspects of the current model into a ‘Canada only’ LIC accreditation delivery and testing. This will require dedication and commitment on the part of industry, to support the new model while working it out collaboratively with educators, employers and workers to transition it to what the program needs to be.
Regardless of how this situation progresses, employers can be assured that the program still provides a benefit to industry. The process of ‘earn while you learn’ is even more relevant for people today, with the high levels of financial responsibilities that are burdening many young people. This program will continue to enable them to increase their earning power and build a career with online learning. The key piece will be building and integrating a new testing format for the important practical modules that can be broadly used and accessible — perhaps even portable — to build on the interest of the online graduates.
The CNLA’s Professional Development Committee has smart directors and support staff who will work collaboratively to make this transition benefit the industry, with the potential for an increase in numbers from a broader group of recruits from online training to build a skilled and competent workforce. In the end, that is what matters.
Hedy Dyck is Chief Operating Officer of the British Columbia Landscape and Nursery Association.