Is There a Need for Two Credentials? Claude Lawrenson, RHI, National Certificate Holder
I am sure that many home inspectors (in Canada) wonder why "we" have a system that seems to promote two similar but different credentials. Often in my travels and inspection discussions I get asked many questions about this. At times - this can lead to a few more questions - is one better than the other, or perhaps the other popular one - so why do we really need both?
To start with I will use what was deemed the logical starting point. CMHC and HRSDC looked to CAHPI some 13 years ago to resolve a number of concerns that surrounded the "home inspection" sector. The findings spawned a response within the home inspection sector. In November of 1996, representative members of home inspection profession in Canada convened a meeting in Toronto to develop a long term strategy for the profession at the "national level". The findings resulted in a "rationale for change" which would be coordinated through a "national initiative". Recorded comments included a look at the current scenario, long term goals and the expected benefits to the profession. The report was issued in June 1997.
Through these deliberations a few key points in that report were identified that included:
(1) Fragmentation within the profession.
(2) Existing associations do not represent the entire home inspection sector.
(3) There is no mechanism in place allowing the different groups to work together towards achieving a common goal.
(4) Create a system to develop national standards for industry regulation, standards of performance for training and base qualifications for individuals entering the profession.
The steering committee indicated "we believe that unifying the professions around common goals is desired not only be members of the profession, but also by a host of stakeholders in the Canadian housing and financing community. We believe that the profession is capable of coalescing around a common strategy and that the merits of accomplishing that strategy will provide significant benefits to all."
This vision not only forged the creation of the CHIBO Steering Committee, but later resulted in the formation of the National Certification Program. The organizational objectives identified included:
(1) To elevate the status of the profession in the minds of the consumer, home inspectors, government and key stakeholders across Canada.
(2) To establish one recognized body speaking on behalf of the Canadian private sector home inspection profession at the national level.
(3) To establish performance standards for home inspections, a code of ethics and criteria for inspector certification that the general public can have confidence that all home inspectors have met the requirements of the national certification process.
(4) To ensure that inspections comply with that standard throughout Canada.
(5) To approve, support and coordinate provincial/regional accrediting agencies to administer, certify and provide disciplinary control of private-sector home inspectors.
The birth of the National Certification Program (NCP) occurred in 2006 after successful completion of the committee work. The vast majority of all of those concerns noted were met. As such the NCP became a key asset of CAHPI National. The NCP is self-funded by applicant members and National Certificate Holders. The NCP is governed by the NCA - National Certification Authority. The NCA is primarily comprised of National Certificate Holders. The identification of National Certificate Holder became the certification mark based on the creation and development of the NCC- National Certification Council, and also the NAC - National Accreditation Council. The creation of the NCP is supported by a good number of stakeholders across country. Even the recent announcement and recognition of the National Certification Program - National Certificate Holder as one of the three organizations accepted for licensing in British Columbia is a positive indicator that there is significance to the credential.
In order for an inspector to obtain their National Certificate, an applicant needs to complete a pretty significant amount of classroom and field training - and they also need to complete, among other things, a minimum of one year as a practicing home inspector and 150 fee-paid inspections. Clearly, the National Certificate Holder level is not something that should be professed as an entry level, since you have to be an experienced home inspector before you can obtain it. This doesn't sound like an entry level to me?
The RHI - Registered Home Inspector designation is the well-known and common certification mark used by CAHPI associations across the country. That is where much of the commonality of the RHI stops. Each CAHPI association has a uniquely different set of certification standards for a member inspector to achieve the RHI certification. This is based on expectation and largely without outside expertise. Each province established functional metrics for benchmarking their own effective certification criteria. On the other hand the NCP spent approximately a year in developing and completing those "in working condition metrics" - the DACUM of what are known as the "National Occupational Standards" for Home and Property Inspectors. Thus completed utilizing outside consultants and shared expertise from across the country. In fact a set of common core competencies are also shared between Canadian home inspectors and building officials - hence the acronym - CHIBO was also developed.
Therefore, the certification organization needs to deliver a recognized standard for benchmarking home inspection abilities that all consumers can depend on. Equally, training providers need to offer academic and practical experiences in their offerings to assure that home inspector in training provides learning outcomes that develop the requisite skills for conducting a successful home inspection. As an educator that means developing or redesigning courses for home inspectors that at least meet the National Occupational Standards (NOS). The NOS identifies certain job tasks and skills that have been identified as important, by an accurate job-task analysis.
To my knowledge - no other home inspection organization has done so, other than ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). The key thing to note here is that little at least within the current provincial model that I am familiar with of standardized assessment, it does not reveal whether the candidate can apply what is being regurgitated to actual job processes and onsite practical applications.
Additionally, new entrants into this field should not be fooled by the hype- that education and training offerings are truly recognized and accredited. Unfortunately some get caught up in only partially preparing them self for the real job at hand. Chances are very high that some candidates will not be able to meet even the nationally recognized certification standard. This brings us to another vital tool that the NCP developed - the TIPR, the Test Inspection with Peer Review. So in order to hire the right people to conduct a home inspection, consumers should also consider inquiring about who has actually inspected (validated) the inspector, and who has independently validated the reporting and accuracy assessment skills of the inspector. Therein lays the role and value of completing a TIPR - scrutinizing the inspector.
Recognized benchmarks of provincial validation must not only rest on the laurels of meeting antiquated psychometric testing standards, they must also rise above what is identified as traditional assessment methodologies. The goal should be to set new standards for providing bona fide benchmarks of ability. If experience coupled with knowledge and ability to perform are the keys, which truly should be recognized as the standard that is provided by the certifications you earn. To accomplish accurate benchmarking, certification programs need to look at testing on-the-job experience, not only pieces of it or terms about it.
As home inspector certification and testing is brought to a new level of legitimacy with widespread adoption of performance-based models by the inspection sector, both credentials will in my opinion collectively serve as the definitive benchmarks. Equally those entering the profession will need to make sure that the education programs they choose will be recognized and additionally provide them with practical hands-on experience along with the required academics when preparing for certification. These are all critical elements that must be considered to properly prepare for performing the actual job. At least for the next while there will always be a need for both credentials to exist, in mutual respect and reciprocal value to all home inspectors practicing in Canada. I look forward to your feedback.