Qualification vs Accreditation/Credentialing
The International Regulator of Coaching and Mentoring CIC (IRCM CIC) is a Community Interest Company, approved as the Regulator for the Coaching and Mentoring Industry. As a Community Interest Company, the IRCM’s responsibility is to the coaching and mentoring industry Consumers; as well as to genuine coaches, mentors, and coaching/mentoring organisations. In its responsibility, the IRCM CIC promotes excellence and improves confidence in the international coaching and mentoring industry with all Consumers, as well as providing an independent authority (Ombudsman Service) to address grievances, disputes, and/or complaints.
The IRCM CIC’s responsibility is to protect the industries consumers. These consumers may be people from within the industry or from outside of the industry. In this case study, the consumers are students.
Case Study Summary
Although the global coaching and mentoring industry is legally unregulated, meaning that anyone can call themselves a coach or a mentor (or both), regardless of their professional background, qualifications (Note 4), and competencies (Note 4).
To address this issue, the industry has found a solution in self-regulation; the International Regulator of Coaching and Mentoring CIC (IRCM CIC) is a UK government-approved Regulator for the protection of the consumers. The IRCM CIC works closely with a number of Professional Bodies that have set independent professional and ethical standards for coaches, mentors, and private commercial training providers, as well as Formal Education Bodies.
Although self-regulation can be seen as a big step forward in becoming more professional as an industry, it still doesn’t solve all the industry problems: as seen through the Requests for Facilitation and Formal Complaints lodged with the Ombudsman Service. Not every person or business within the coaching and mentoring industry agrees to comply with the minimal industry recognised Codes of Conduct.
This case study is generated from a formal complaint, where the Private Commercial Training Organisation has selected to both gain an accreditation from a Professional Body for their course and their trainers, as well as provide an independent external verification of their students standards through issuing each student with both a qualification and an accreditation/credential. In this way, this Private Commercial Training Organisation has both devalued its own training course and its accreditation/credential awarded by a coaching and mentoring Professional Body. The Professional Body has devalued the accreditations/credentials awarded to their Private Commercial Training Organisations, as well devaluing the accreditations/credentials awarded to the Coaches and/or Mentors.
As the Ombudsman Service received no appeals from the Respondents or the Professional Body, the Head of Ombudsman Service concluded that the report, sanctions, and recommendations have been accepted. To date, the only response to the sanctions and recommendations has been from the Professional Body who stated that ‘all issues resolved or in the process of being resolved’, yet the Private Commercial Training Organisation remains accredited/credentialed by the Professional Body and is still awarding accreditations/credentials to their students.
As the Ombudsman Service can see no evidence of the issues being resolved through researching the Private Commercial Training Organisations website or the Professional Bodies website, the Ombudsman Service recommends that, when looking for a coach or mentor training course, all consumers:
- review the Private Commercial Training Organisation for its:
- use and understanding of industry-standard terminology,
- independent external verification of the trainers,
- independent external verification of the course content,
- inclusion of the industry recognised Codes of Conduct;
- review the Professional Body that has awarded the independent external verification of the trainers and the course,
- verify that the Professional Body is currently REGISTERED or ACCREDITED on the relevant IRCM CIC Professional Bodies Directory; and
- verify that the Private Commercial Training Organisation, and Trainers are currently REGISTERED on the relevant IRCM CIC Directory.
- review the Private Commercial Training Organisation for its:
The IRCM CIC receives input and feedback; the Ombudsman Service receives grievances; from a mixture of coaching and mentoring industry consumers. This case study recognises the challenges of students (consumers) who are training with a Private Commercial Training Organisation. (Note 1)
After approaching the Private Commercial Training Organisation, a number of students lodged formal complaints with the Ombudsman Service. After an initial investigation, it was established that these complaints relate to the student’s expectations from the Private Commercial Training Organisation and highlighted the challenge the coaching and mentoring industry has with the use of standardised terminology.
The detail of this case study originates from more than one complaint made against a specific Private Commercial Training Organisation; and could equally apply to the students of other Private Commercial Training Organisations or Formal Education Bodies. (Note 1)
The complaints registered by students who, before investigating the industry, were unaware of the coaching and mentoring industry standards. Whether these students are coaches and/or mentors or new to the industry, the details of these complaints highlighted the use of standardised terminology in the coaching and mentoring industry.
The Consumers Challenge
Although the Private Commercial Training Organisation had been training students for a number of years, in June 2019 the organisation was awarded a level of accreditation/credentialing for their coach training course from one of the industries Professional Bodies (subject of a different Case Study (Note 2)).
During the first few months of 2020, these students applied for or were registered by a third-party, and subsequently, after successfully completing a 12-week on-line coach training course, qualified as ‘Master Coaches’.
Enthusiastic about the coaching and/or mentoring industry, after completing their coaching course these students applied for another training course with the same Private Commercial Training Organisation. Although successfully completing the second course (subject of two different Case Study (Note 3)), the challenges experienced when they included the course on their biography or curriculum vitae encouraged them to contact the Professional Body who had accredited/credentialed their original coach training course.
Raising their questions with the Professional Body, they were told by a senior member of staff that although they were qualified as ‘Master Coaches’, the training company could not also ‘accredit’ them. Therefore, their ‘accreditation’ was deemed invalid.
On approaching the Private Commercial Training Organisation, they were treated with disdain. In looking for a solution they registered their complaints with the Ombudsman Service.
Outcome of the Ombudsman Service investigations
The Ombudsman Service determined that the challenges encountered by these students; who, although qualified, knew nothing about the industry before submitting their enquiry to the Professional Body; was two-fold:
- Private Commercial Training Organisations may either not know the industry standards or may select not to follow the industry standards.
- Students in this industry or coming into this industry have no knowledge of the industry standards.
The outcome of the Ombudsman Service investigations highlighted a lack of knowledge about this industry and the industry challenges of standardised terminology.
While the international coaching and mentoring industry is legally unregulated, anyone can start to trade in this industry, regardless of their professional background, industry specific qualifications, and competencies. They can call themselves a coach or a mentor (or both) or they can set up a coach and/or mentor training organisation without being questioned.
With Private Commercial Training Organisations setting up and trading without consideration for the outcome of the coaching and/or mentoring industry, like the one in this complaint, the quality and excellence of this industry remains questionable.
The outcome explanation
The IRCM CIC works within the industry to provide unified internationally recognised industry standards for the benefit of the Consumers. This was initially through completely reviewing and combining each Professional Bodies standards and ethics to create a unified internationally recognised industry standard. This unified internationally recognised standard is reviewed and updated regularly by the IRCM CIC’s industry advisory Steering Committees; made up of high-level stakeholders, experts, and consumers who drive the future development of the coaching and mentoring industry by providing guidance on key issues specifically relating to the coaching and mentoring industry.
The Steering Committees involve the Professional Bodies (representing the Private Commercial Training Organisations, Coaches, and Mentors) and the Formal Education Bodies (Universities, Colleges, Schools). All Coaches, Mentors, and Organisations within in the industry who are Registered on the IRCM CIC’s Directories are asked to provide their input through surveys, questionnaires, etc.
As with all industries, there is industry terminology in the coaching and mentoring industry. This provides a simple approach to managing consumer expectations.
The Ombudsman Service investigation proved that the unified internationally recognised industry definitions that have not been followed by the Private Commercial Training Organisation are those that relate to ‘qualification’ and ‘accreditation/credentialing’.
The dictionary definition for qualification is ‘the passing of an examination or an official completion of a course, especially one conferring status as a recognised practitioner or a professional or activity’.
The IRCM CIC has defined qualification as ‘an award to each student (Coach and/or Mentor) through the successful achievement of their training from their Training Organisation’. Qualified students, not to be confused with Accreditation/Credentialling, are awarded a certificate that shows their success in a specific course or workshop.
The dictionary definition for accreditation is ‘the action or process of officially recognising someone as having a particular status or being qualified to perform a particular activity’. Across a range of industries, including in the coaching and mentoring industry; accreditation is recognised as an external validation of a person’s ability and is based on their knowledge and personally gained experience.
It is for this reason that the IRCM CIC has defined accreditation/credentialling as ‘an independent external verification of competence awarded by an external body, which in the coaching and mentoring industry is the Professional Bodies (accreditation bodies, trade/membership bodies, or associations), of a Coach or a Mentor’.
Formal Education Bodies are provided an external verification by the Government Education Department; whereas the Private Commercial Training Organisations do not have this external validation if it is not provided through one or more coaching and mentoring Professional Bodies. Therefore, the IRCM CIC encourages the Professional Bodies to provide the same service to Private Commercial Training Organisations and to their courses and/or workshops.
The IRCM CIC has recognised that there are a number of qualified and independently verified and authenticated Coaches and Mentors who have Registered with the IRCM CIC on the Individual Suppliers Directory.
It is for this reason that the IRCM CIC has defined competence as ‘Coaches and Mentors who are able to demonstrate and keep current:
- Their REGISTRATION on the IRCM CIC’s Individual Suppliers Directory.
- Their ACCREDITATION/CREDENTIAL with one or more Coaching and/or Mentoring Professional Bodies.’
Competence is also awarded to Private Commercial Training Organisations who are both Registered on the IRCM CIC’s Education Directory and Accredited/Credentialed by one or more Coaching and/or Mentoring Professional Body.
Competence is also awarded to Formal Education Bodies who are Registered on the IRCM CIC’s Education Directory and approved by their countries Government as a Formal Education Body.
Competence is awarded to Coaches, Mentors, Private Commercial Training Organisations, and Formal Education Bodies as a recognition of their commitment to raising the standards of the coaching and mentoring industry, by agreeing to abide by and (where applicable) incorporate into the training the IRCM’s Code of Conduct.
Private Commercial Training Organisations may not know, or may select not to follow, the industry standards.
Private Commercial Training Organisations who believe that they can both ‘qualify’ and ‘accredit’ their students are devaluing the coaching and mentoring industry and the quality of their training courses.
While the expression ‘the customer is always right’ is a motto popularised by pioneering and successful retailers like Harry Selfridge, John Wanamaker, and Marshall Field; as consumers (prospective students) become aware of the coaching and mentoring unified internationally recognised industry definitions, standards and ethics; the Private Commercial Training Organisations who do not meet these basic industry standards for their training course(s) and/or workshop(s) will find that the prospective students will select other Private Commercial Training Organisation’s training courses/workshops and will no longer apply to train on their courses and/or workshops.
Students coming into this industry have no knowledge of the industry standards
Prospective Students (the Private Commercial Training Organisations consumers) who are not aware of the coaching and mentoring industry unified internationally recognised industry standards, ethics, and definitions before they select a coaching or mentoring training course or workshop will continue to be disappointed and not meet their own expectations.
Applying to complete a training course or workshop by following a motivating and interesting advert, without understanding the industry, will continue to produce consumers who make assumptions about the offering made by Private Commercial Training Organisations. Where the Private Commercial Training Organisation has gained a Professional Body accreditation/credential, the prospective student in this situation would assume that they will be granted both a qualification by the Private Commercial Training Organisation and an accreditation by the Professional Body.
© 2020 International Regulator of Coaching and Mentoring CIC
- The IRCM CIC recognises that there are two types of education organisations:
Formal Education Bodies are recognised as Universities, Colleges, and Schools who are authorised by the countries Government Education Department.
Private Commercial Training Organisations are companies owned by private individuals that provide coach and/or mentor training without formal authorisation from the countries Government Education Department.
- This case study discusses the challenges faced by Professional Bodies, and their responses.
- The first of these two case studies discusses the challenges faced by the industry when a Professional Body that is not industry-related, accredits/credentials a coaching/mentoring course/workshop.
The second of these two case studies discuss the challenges faced by the Consumers (students) and their clients, when a Private Commercial Training Organisation runs a training course/workshop where the course/workshop creator, tutors, faculty, etc. are not qualified at the right level.
- The definitions for industry-standard terminology can be found on the IRCM CIC’s Unified International Industry of Coaching and Mentoring Definitions.
Currently, all information provided by and correspondence with the IRCM CIC is in English.