Saturday, November 27, 2010

Professional Certification and Career Advancement

Industry Sponsored Certification

Certification says a lot about a professional. This individual has dedicated personal time and has committed to intensive study to improve their skills on the required topics. Supervisors and managers may set a goal for employees to reach a level of experience or even challenge them to seek a certification. Employees who have achieved a professional certification have experienced preference in job hiring, retention and promotion. Though a certification does not guarantee an employee such benefits, it does demonstrate a few important qualities to their management. Primarily, those certified convey a commitment to the profession, investment in the enterprise, and a high level of experience and knowledge.

Organizations that hire employees with certifications or encourage employees to become certified benefit from the experience. In many cases, employers pay for the certification exams and other fees related to the certification requirements. They recognize the dedication their employees demonstrate, experienced gained, and the marketability of the certified. Other benefits to the company include bragging rights and certifications can be included in company profiles. When applicable, defense contractors can mention employee certifications when listing capabilities and responding to requests for bids. For example, they can mention that the FSO “is board certified to protect classified information” and list the certification and source. Those who solicit bids also recognize certifications to include prime contractors and Federal agencies. Certifications are also good credentials for vendors who install security systems, guards, document destruction or provide other security services.

As leaders, FSOs can help security employees understand how to create incredible security programs. Focusing on training, interaction with other cleared employees, self-improvement and institutional education should be part of professional development. FSOs who write security evaluations for direct reports have an excellent opportunity to help them establish goals to become better at their jobs, more impactful in their careers and hopefully, groomed to become FSO's themselves. Challenging employees and team members to achieve personal and professional goals breeds success.

Industrial Security Professional Certification

The ISP Certification is one goal FSOs could take as a goal as well as encourage employees to achieve. The employee gains from such education and a prestigious career milestone. The organization also benefits from what the security employee learns and applies on the job. When employees study for the ISP Certification, they learn: how to read and apply the NISPOM, the importance of forming professional relationships with cleared employees, how the cleared contractor and the DSS representatives interact, and much more.

A leader also creates pride in the organization and employee by making them more competitive in their career and providing basis for professional pride. The path to the ISP Certification goals should not be taken alone. When employees are challenged with the goal, the manager can help by providing or allowing education as found on the DSS, professional organization or vendor websites. Studies on NISPOM topics are available on the internet as well as on site. If your team is large enough, consider helping them start a study group.

If the cleared contractor facility has multiple security employees, provide an opportunity to cross train. Security employees who work personnel security issues could work with document control and etc. FSOs could facilitate security employees from one discipline inspect another security section during the annual self inspection. Another idea is for the FSO to create an internal certification program. This helps integrate new employees into their jobs. A self-certification program would train an employee on performing individual tasks. The employee works under a mentor who verifies and documents the training. This training covers how the cleared contractor facility security employees practice document control, manage personnel security, provide classified contract support and etc. If such a program exists in your organization, consider using it for further cross training employees who concentrate only on one task. This will help them become more experienced and more prepared for the exam.

Employees may not feel comfortable asking for training, setting prestigious goals, or asking for funding for professional organizations or certifications. However, a supervisor who is aware of such opportunities can encourages the employee to become engaged.

Most applicable is the Industrial Security Professional (ISP) Certification sponsored by the NCMS (Society of Industrial Security Professionals). The certification exam is based on the National Industrial Security Program Operation Manual (NISPOM) and consists of 110 multiple choice questions 2. The first 100 questions come from the NISPOM and referenced regulations and forms. The last 10 questions are made up of select electives. Security administration and management, document security, information system security, physical security, personnel security, international security, classification, security education, audits and self assessment make up the certification’s core topics.

Though NCMS membership is made up of several thousand security specialists and FSOs, the ISP certification is open to non-members and includes security disciplines such as: personnel security, guards, document control, contracts management and all other disciplines. It is not only for those with security titles, just those who perform security functions while working with classified information and material. For example, a company president who also serves as FSO, an engineer, project manager, clerk, cleared security service provider, military service member, Federal employee or anyone else who can demonstrate that they protect classified information in the performance of their job. The ISP Certification is relatively new and is increasing in popularity and gaining momentum. You can find out more about NCMS and ISP Certification through their website or by searching “industrial security professional certification” or “ISP Certification” in your favorite search engine.

Other certification

There are many sources available for certification applicable to both the defense contractor and government security professionals. Some have more weight than others, but all require good preparation time. These certifications mentioned below are but a few of the most popular. All of them cannot be listed here and the intent is not to recognize one above the other. For convenience, we are listing four certification sources familiar to those who are experienced in the industrial security field. These are the more popular sources for the certifications listed most on business cards and titles.

Some other pertinent security certifications are provided through the American Society of Industrial Security International (ASIS). This organization is made up of more than 35,000 security practitioners, suppliers and service providers throughout the world. The scope of coverage is larger and less industry specific. As a professional organization, ASIS is enjoys a membership consisting of law-enforcement, military, government, defense industry, loss prevention, and other professionals. To meet the demand for a professional presence, ASIS sponsors three certifications meeting differing needs in the security industry. The Certified Protection Professional (CPP), Certified Professional Investigator (CPI) and Physical Security Professional (PSP) each provide professionalism and opportunities to excel in broad disciplines.

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