Recognizing Our Professionals

This is the second in our series of “milestone” articles we will be publishing throughout 2018 to celebrate 25 years of coordinating, facilitating, and enabling innovative programs and services for the tourism sector.

Tourism HR Canada and its partners have proudly developed a professional certification model that is second only to apprenticeship when it comes to the number of individuals in the sector obtaining credentials.

Following the development, refinement, and ratification of the first batch of national occupational standards for the tourism sector, Tourism HR Canada grew its service offering by providing industry-based assessments and a professional designation benchmarked against those standards.

The genesis for the professional certification model drew strongly from a comprehensive report published in the late 1980s by the government of Alberta. This same report was used to recommend the development of competency-based occupational standards, with the assessment against those standards becoming a national certification program, now available under the Emerit brand.

In addition to recommending the development of a certification system based on benchmarked standards, the report also recommended a focus on the competencies required to demonstrate knowledge, performance, and experience in a specific occupation. This involved creating a totally new model that would focus on the recognition of frontline staff, rather than a traditional apprenticeship model. The strategy was to provide recognition and demonstrate that these occupations required knowledge and needed to be able to be performed in a real-world setting, and ensure those obtaining the credential had a requisite amount of relevant experience.

The public policy of the day recognized the merit of this endeavor and had the foresight to invest in a program that continues to serve the sector more than 20 years later. Funding was secured, and development of an assessment model tied to the newly established national occupational standards (NOS) began in earnest in July 1996.

To assist the fledging organization, provincial and territorial partners (who were also Board members) agreed to lead development for specific occupations. For instance, Nova Scotia took the lead on front desk agent, British Columbia on food and beverage server, and so forth. This collaborative approach helped to build cohesion and consistency while sharing the rather daunting workload involved in the three-year project.

While the development of both the NOS and the certification program were necessary in growing the professionalism of those working in the sector, it was certification and the bestowing of an industry-developed and -recognized credential that had the strongest impact on those working in tourism.

The certification was based on the prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) model, where prior learning and experience are recognized and have real value and credit that can be applied to the certification process. This approach allowed for the development of a “challenge model” to obtain the industry credential—candidates were not obliged to engage in training before challenging the certification. The rationale was that many of the skills and much of the knowledge required to be successfully certified could be learned through on-the-job experience.

Candidates were, and are still, encouraged to familiarize themselves with the NOS before challenging certification, since the assessment is based on benchmarked standards that could include aspects of the occupation to which the candidate has never been exposed. Related training was launched a few years later to assist those with less workplace experience—a milestone we’ll explore in another feature.

Over the past twenty years, the profile of the candidate looking to obtain certification has grown to include individuals seeking an industry credential, but lacking the requisite experience. Many of these individuals are just entering tourism and hospitality, but already see the value of having an industry credential. Tourism HR Canada and its partners recognized this changing demographic, and added flexibility into the certification model to ensure we are serving the broadest number of clients, while maintaining the integrity of the model and continuing to assist businesses in finding, preparing, and employing the professionals they need. Over this same period, the certification programs available grew to include supervisory and a few key managerial occupations, as well as two “certificate” programs focused on new entrants to the sector.

A planned update to the national occupational standards will be accomplished through the development of a Competency Framework for tourism and hospitality, and updates and improvements to the certification program will follow. Stay tuned (or subscribe) to Tourism HR Insider for progress on these updates, taking place over the next three years.

Emerit Professional Certification by the Numbers

  • More than 25,000 industry professionals certified
  • 23 national certification occupations
  • 2 international certification occupations
  • Top three certification occupations:
    1. Housekeeping Room Attendant
    2. Food & Beverage Server
    3. Front Desk Agent