Certification Courses Should Balance Preparation With Education

When it comes to certification courses, it’s a delicate balancing act: You need to prepare your students for the exam, but you also want to educate them more broadly.

“I am not a fan of teaching to a test,” said Scott Bachrach, vice president of operations for Mobile Training & Education (MT&E), a provider of technical and workforce training. “That takes a class from being about education to being about preparation.

“A lot of people who have experience in these fields have gaps in their knowledge, and that’s natural. Taking a course where you have educational value allows you to fill those gaps.”

But that doesn’t downplay the importance of certifications. Bachrach believes they give professionals credibility and a leg up.

“If you go looking for a job, it’s another aspect on your resume that somebody else may not have,” he said. “When we talk to prospective students, we call it ‘tools in your toolbox.’ Anybody can walk in with a copy of a resume and say, ‘I want the job.’ It’s what’s on the resume; it’s what you bring to the table. What distinguishes you from the other candidate?”

While many certification courses just focus on the test, Bachrach said in recent months, he’s seen some providers shift their focus to education rather than preparation.

“The reality is, training is a business,” he explained. “[Private training institutions tend to cater] to the needs of the client, and I believe more people are interested in getting that piece of paper than the knowledge behind it.”

Bachrach recommended that trainers and instructors “think beyond the piece of paper” when teaching.

“Think about what the piece of paper represents,” he explained. “Certification is not just about being certified. It’s about being able to represent the competencies and the principles. If I take a certification in fiber optics, not only did I pass the exam, [but] I’m [also] competent enough to perform that action for an employer.”

MT&E uses instructor-led training with hands-on laboratories.

"Anybody can go on Amazon.com, buy a book and read it from cover to cover,” Bachrach said. “It’s the value that the instructor brings into that classroom that goes beyond the book.”

As a result, Bachrach looks for instructors who have real-world experience and good personalities.

“Not only does the instructor have to be able to teach the subject matter, [but he also must] have experience in that subject matter so that he can convey that experience and knowledge to the student,” Bachrach said. “He’s got to have a good personality [because] you don’t want somebody who’s dry [and] cannot interact with the student.”

– Lindsay Edmonds Wickman, lwickman@certmag.com

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