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Certification: Standing proud

On 1 January 2017, AHRI will draw a line in the sand on the means by which HR practitioners can become certified. From that date an HR professional who wishes to be recognised in the market as a “certified” HR practitioner, will be required to complete the AHRI Practising Certification Program (APC) in order to meet a new standard for certified HR practitioners in Australia.

In Australia AHRI is doing what our counterparts in other countries are also now doing, and for good reason. Businesses increasingly require “good” HR practitioners, and they want confirmation that those practitioners have the necessary knowledge and skills.

In conversations with our Australian members, employers and our British partner association the 230,000-strong Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), it has become clear that there is a demand to be able to reliably credential HR practitioners in a way that formally validates their knowledge and skills.

This article looks at how the formal certification model fits with the existing standards framework that has been developed by AHRI. It also explores what certification will mean for current AHRI members, particularly those rated as CAHRIs.

The certification pathway

Members who have been awarded CAHRI status before January 2017 will be entitled to maintain that level of membership under a “grandfathering” arrangement which respects the prevailing good faith at the time they earned that standing.

After January 2017, members wanting to become certified will be required to undertake a four-unit postgraduate AHRI Practising Certification Program.

The APC has been developed in consultation with private and public sector experts, and includes three knowledge units plus a fourth capstone unit. This final unit is a workplace-based practical assessment of competency based on the formula: competency = knowledge + skills.

As has been the case previously, eligibility to apply to become a certified HR practitioner requires a minimum of five years in a role that involves practical experience operating in human resources, or a combination of formal study and at least two years’ experience. Where the study is via an AHRI accredited academic HR program, recognition of prior learning may be applied in respect to the three knowledge units, leaving only the fourth mandatory, workplace-based capstone assessment unit to be completed.

What will certification mean for AHRI members?

For those HR professionals who work in or who aspire to work in an area of practice in which being certified is seen as desirable or necessary, gaining the APC would be of significant benefit with respect to their standing within the HR profession.

As part of AHRI’s role as an advocate on behalf of the profession, a formal certification program will enable AHRI to more actively promote the APC standard to the wider business community.

For members who do not work in an HR practising role, or are at a point in their career in which they judge a practising HR certificate is neither relevant nor necessary, those members will maintain their MAHRI level of professional membership or may upgrade to Fellow (FAHRI) if their background and experience warrants that. Neither MAHRIs nor Fellows are inherently certified, though CAHRIs who have come into AHRI via the certification pathway will be certified.

All professional levels of membership (MAHRI, CAHRI and FAHRI) will still require different degrees of continuing professional development (CPD) in accordance with AHRI rules in order to maintain the entitlement to use the respective post-nominals. AHRI will continue to play a central role in validating the standard, and confirming its authenticity to the market.

How will members be assessed?

For the past decade or so, through its National Accreditation Committee, AHRI has been accrediting academic HR programs in both the higher education and VET sectors. In much the same way, AHRI will establish an independent certification council or committee that will ensure the standards of appropriately credentialed AHRI members are those which give employers confidence that certified practitioners are both knowledgeable and competent.

The certification body will also review standards and be responsible for overseeing the mechanisms available to members with respect to routine assessment procedures and CPD audits, including management of appeals.

The members of such a body would come from a broad range of representative stakeholder groups that are capable of overseeing the key areas of academic knowledge and practical competence.

How will employers know they should employ certified HR practitioners?

In initiating this overhaul of the HR certification framework in Australia, AHRI has made a commitment to engage in a public communication campaign that explains in plain language what an APC should know and what an employer should be able to expect of an APC as a business partner.

An outcome of such a campaign would be to signal to discerning employers that by employing certified HR professionals with an APC, they get a high degree of certainty and quality assurance that includes validation and renewal of skills and knowledge.

Consultations are continuing with the AHRI state councils on the details relating to the development of the certification model.

For further information visit the FAQs.

This article was first published in the April 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Standing proud’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here


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Catherine Cahill
Catherine Cahill

I do hope this does not end up disenfranchising older women. Professional recognition is very important, but if you genuinely review our history, many professionals are women who entered their careers before degrees were mandatory and/or before many women studied at university level.

There already is a strong bias against older women at work, so I would like to see AHRI actively address this by encouraging older women to have their years of experience recognised.

Heike Sassenberg
Heike Sassenberg

Catherine – I couldn’t agree more.
I completed my business degree last year, at 48 years young and have worked in HR for over 10 years.
However after being made redundant last year, I have experienced a great deal of difficulty and age discrimination when looking for new employment, despite my experience and a qualification. I certainly don’t wish to study a post qualification, more money and time commitment for a position or advancement that employers wont recognise in me.

Tanya Hammond
Tanya Hammond

Hi Catherine and Heike, I’ve been undertaking research around this area for a number of years. I’ve held back commenting in forums in the past – but I feel really strongly that this – so here goes. AHRI certification will not simply be about how much people have studied or how many years they have been working, but about HR practitioners’ achievement of competency that relies on knowledge, skills and behaviours – based not merely on formal study but on an understanding of HR’s contribution to the business and individual HR practitioners’ performance in the workplace as business partners. So… Read more »

Siobhan Fitzpatrick
Siobhan Fitzpatrick

I hope someone can help. I am from the UK and have a bachelors degree in psychology along side 5 years experience working as an HR assistant and HR coordinator for large companies both in the UK and Australia. If I was to complete a diploma would I be recognised with a certificate AHRI? I am looking into studying the UK equivalent (CIPD) but I would rather just study the certificate in Australia rather than the masters degree? Hope this makes sense

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