Trends in Credentialing: Takeaways from the 2019 ICE Executive Summit

By Terri Hinkley, Ed.D., MBA, BScN, RN 

As credentialing leaders, we know that the work environment is changing rapidly. We are inundated with news and articles about the changes occurring in learning and in work. In fact, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) assessment of adult skills highlighted the changing skills required of adults in the 21st century as a result of these changes. The OECD notes: “The way we live and work has changed profoundly – and so has the set of skills we need to participate fully in and benefit from our hyper-connected societies and increasingly knowledge-based economies” (OECD, 2013, p. 3). The most recent ICE Executive Summit, held May 6, 2019 in Washington, D.C., focused on the changing landscape of credentialing, specifically mitigating risk and leveraging opportunity for credentialing organizations. The summit allowed certification executives to explore this changing landscape and to discuss and explore strategies to leverage the opportunities it presents. 

The Executive Summit was expertly facilitated by Robert Pedigo of Pedigo and Associates. The day kicked off with Catherine Putney, from ITR Economics, providing a forecast of the economy. It occurred to me, listening to Catherine’s detailed presentation that economics is a form of foresight where signals are identified and analyzed for what they indicate about possible futures. In this session, the group learned that a recession is likely in 2019-2020 and the next depression, if things continue unchanged, is projected to occur in 2030. Catherine’s key takeaways from this session included that an economic downturn is imminent, that the labor market is in the hands of the workers and to be proactive (and not reactive) in conducting your business, especially considering a potential economic downturn. She also provided seven messages to share with future generations , noted in the sidebar below.


 What to Teach the Next Generation

  • Live below your means
  • Learn a second language
  • Each house should have multiple and diverse income streams
  • Choose a career oriented toward future opportunities
  • Pay off as much debt as possible by 2030
  • Be ready to buy during the low price cycle of the depression
  • Be self-reliant


Next, we had the privilege of hearing Jerald Jacobs, of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, present the legal challenges to voluntary certification and the work of the Professional Certification Coalition (PCC), a coalition formed by ICE and the American Society for Association Executives (ASAE) with advocacy support from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. Several key takeaways were identified during this session, namely the political momentum around deregulation. He encouraged certification bodies to leverage their evidence around impact of credentialing on professions in response to these efforts. There is also a role for educating legislators, given that many of the politicians proposing such legislation often lack the necessary knowledge of credentialing.

Another key takeaway was related to copyright protection of computer-based certification exams or secure tests. While copyright protection has long been sought for certification exams, the process for copyright application was based on paper and pencil exams. Due to changes in the rules promulgated by the U.S. Copyright Office, Jacobs noted that extreme delays and arbitrary denials have occurred. He stressed the need for ICE and credentialing bodies to continue to be  heard on this issue. Lastly, Jacobs also cautioned the audience to be aware of litigation in the certification space concerning the tying of membership and certification/re-certification. He pointed out that while none of these lawsuits have been heard in court, anti-trust claims have been filed against some certifying bodies. 

In the final session of the day, Pedigo began with an exploration of the forces affecting changes in credentialing and the workforce. During his presentation, Pedigo explored the need for foresight and shared observations of the changing political, economic, social and technological forces impacting today’s workplace and its workforce. He challenged the executives present to understand how these changes would impact their professions and, as a result, their certification products. Following this thought-provoking and engaging session, Pedigo and Manny Straehle, President of Assessment, Education, and Research Experts (AERE) discussed risk assessment and led the group in a collaborative, small group exercise to explore how to minimize risks and leverage opportunities. The executives identified many risks or threats, including the impact of technology on jobs, reskilling requirements for workers, the potential need for career change and the sub-specialization of roles. Opportunities included micro-credentials, interactive item types, remote proctoring, non-cognitive (soft skills) assessments and the use of gamification and artificial intelligence in testing. 

The day wrapped with many executives noting that ICE and its members have a role to play in the exploration of this future state. Many were appreciative of the work done by ICE to date. To illustrate, the ICE board of directors and staff have, for two years, been focused on the future of credentialing. In 2017, the Executive Summit, held at the annual ICE Exchange, was led by Sara Skvirsky, a futurist with the Institute for the Future. In 2019, ICE has been hosting a monthly executive conversation series exploring one ASAE ForesightWorks driver each month. These facilitated sessions are an opportunity for credentialing executives to collaboratively explore what these drivers mean and how they may impact credentialing organizations in the future. Each executive conversation includes discussion on how ICE can help the industry navigate these drivers and prepare for the future. 

Many of the attendees responded with the observation that the collective strength and expertise of the group far outweighs what any one individual credentialing executive can do on his or her own. The German have a term for this, called ‘gestalt’. Gestalt does not have a simple definition but is broadly recognized to mean that together we are more than the sum of our individual parts. Thank you to ICE for bringing us together and providing us with the opportunity to learn from each other, teach each other and be more together than we can be individually. 



OECD. (2013). OECD Skills Outlook 2013: OECD Publishing.


Looking For Opportunities to Connect with Executives?

As the credentialing landscape shifts, leadership must be prepared to address change, innovate and stay nimble. ICE offers a number of opportunities for CEOs and executives to stay ahead of the curve and gain support from peers. Check out these upcoming events:

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