Relevance of Certification - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Relevance of Certification

The relevance of certification was underscored at PLANET’s 2010 Strategic Planning meeting where certification was a central topic of discussion and “Certification & Standards” was listed as a core objective in the resulting Strategic Plan. Following this July 2010 meeting, PLANET’s International Certification Council (ICC) Chair Michael Becker, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, noted the relevance of certification during an ICC call:

I am pleased to report that certification was a key topic of discussion with an emerging statement aimed at future growth of the certification program: ‘Landscape Industry Certified individuals and Landscape Industry Certified accredited companies will be demanded by specifiers and end users.

In a 2012 PLANET leadership survey, certification was ranked No. 2 out of 20 top PLANET programs and services.

 The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) would applaud this high ranking.

 The certification of specialized skill-sets affirms a knowledge and experience base for practitioners in a particular field, their employers, and the public at large. Certification represents a declaration of a particular individual’s professional competence. … In all instances, certification enhances the employability and career advancement of the individual practitioner or employee.

Many organizations in today’s competitive and challenging economy have recognized their workforce as their most valuable asset. Likewise, individuals, whether employed or self-employed, know that now more than ever before they must acquire and maintain more comprehensive skill-sets to ensure their own attractiveness and ability in the workplace. 


Why is certification important? Certification can:

  • Enhance your professionalism.
  • Create a sense of personal achievement.
  • Increase respect and recognition in the industry or profession.
  • Increase professional credibility among customers and prospects.
  • Increase marketing advantages for your firm by having certified individuals on staff.
  • Help you demonstrate to stakeholders that your business is run effectively.
  • Help ensure that you are continually improving and refining your activities.
  • Help improve staff responsibility, commitment, and motivation.
  • Help improve overall performance, remove uncertainty, and widen market opportunities.

In their own words …

Ten years ago, Shayne Newman, Landscape Industry Certified Manager & Technician, decided he needed more career-minded employees to facilitate growth. To find them, the owner of YardApes in New Milford, Connecticut, pinned his hopes on PLANET’s certification program. Since then, four of his employees have become certified and 10 others are in various stages of the certification process. Says Newman:

Certification is something that allows me to define and set the standard for what I want from employees.

To be certified means unequivocally that we are safer, more knowledgeable, more efficient, and more productive. I can say with confidence that once they become certified, our employees are professionals who absolutely understand the proper management and care of property, execute quality work, and are dedicated to safe practices. 

Internally, the certification is a great motivator. It’s an incentive for growth and development that benefits the individual employee, the company as a whole, and, of course, the client.

When asked about the relevancy of certification, ICC Chair Becker responded:

I would say the relevance of certification is your relevance in the marketplace. It is not a magic bullet we are always seeking in our marketing, training, or procedures. I often think I am going to find that one thing that is going to make my marketing dollars suddenly manifest into huge work that I can directly trace back to the marketing, or even that one employee who is going to transform the installation process,. or that one image-changing opportunity that will send people stampeding to our door. The fact is that these things don’t exist.

Certification is a piece of the puzzle, and it is just one visible part of your company culture and image. It doesn’t start when you sign up for the test, and it doesn’t end when you get the certificate in the mail. It is a process in your personal commitment to growth, knowledge, and what is current and accepted in your industry. It is the years of experience, the time spent learning and understanding, and the ability to put that into practice. It is the time taken to study and prepare for the test. It is the commitment to engage in continuing education: learning what is current, innovative, and the new standard. I would contend when viewed in this light, certification is a measure of your relevance in the industry, in your company, and in your market. It is one true measure of how well your knowledge and skill align with the best practices, and known and accepted standards of the industry.

Is that relevant to you? Only you can decide how important it is to communicate that relevance to your customers, employees, and even vendors. (I was able to negotiate a substantial insurance rate decrease partly because of my certification involvement, and the sense of comfort it gave the underwriter that I was a good risk.) And, only you can decide how you will use this certificate of measure once you achieve it. If you hang it on a wall, you can guess what it will do for you. If you live it-telling everyone you can- and continue to seek knowledge and growth in the industry … living it out in how you work within your company and the industry as a whole, your returns could be substantial. Like I said, it’s not a one-shot magic bullet. Like marketing, or system building, or even exercise, its value and relevance is in doing the work, every day, even when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel or have a lot of other things on your plate.

I would go so far as to say that Landscape Industry Certified is the valid measure of your relevance in the industry. It is an expertly constructed and administered, industry-valid and correct measuring stick of where your knowledge level is in accordance with known and accepted best practices, and current knowledge in the landscape industry.

Karen Barnett is PLANET’s director of certification, and has been involved in the green industry for 15 years. A former Army journalist, Barnett is staff liaison to PLANET’s International Certification Council. She is a member of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence and the American Society of Association Executives.