Professionally Certifying Compost Operations Managers
In October, the Certification Commission of the US Composting Council launched the first professional certification in the U.S. for compost operations managers.
The Certification Commission of the US Composting Council (USCC) officially launched the first professional certification in the nation for compost operations managers on October 26, 2016. “There already is a lot of on-line applications activity and excitement about the Certified Compost Operations Manager (CCOM),” notes Frank Franciosi, USCC Executive Director. “We would like to have all people who work in composting operations and meet the prerequisites go to the Certification Commission website to start the application process. Those who complete the certification by January 10 and earn the CCOM credential, will be celebrated at a recognition ceremony on January 25 at COMPOST2017, the USCC’s annual conference and tradeshow in Los Angeles.”
The decision to build a professional credential “from the ground up” came after considerable research and deliberation on the part of both the USCC and the Composting Council Research and Education Foundation (CCREF). That research ultimately identified six top reasons why compost operations managers would choose to become USCC Certified: Required for promotions or salary increases; Essential for career development; Ensures public safety; Required or preferred by the employer; Shows professionalism and improves the public’s view of compost operation managers as professionals; and May be required for regulatory compliance.
Creation of the first professional credential by and for the compost manufacturing industry started in February 2015 with a $150,000 development grant from the 11th Hour Project to the CCREF. “A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to bring a professional certification program into the world,” explains Franciosi. “One highly visible stage before the full launch was the beta testing done in July and August 2016. Our goal was to have 200 individuals register for and take the CCOM beta test, and more than 300 stepped into the registration process before the deadline. Not everyone made it to one of the beta test events set up at USCC member facilities and offices around the country, but we are in communication with all of them. Everyone who becomes certified in these opening months will get the chance to stand in the spotlight as our first group, in the first year, in Los Angeles.”
A Certification Commission with an official charter was established to work in close collaboration with the USCC. Founding Commissioners were Jack Hoeck (Rexius Forest By-Products), Jerry Bartlett (Bartlett Ventures), Tom Del Conte (Vision Recycling), Mark Rose (The LETCO Group), Scott Subler (ClimeCo Corp.) and Chuck Wilson (A1 Organics). The Certification Commission’s mission is to develop and administer national, valid, credible, vendor-neutral certification programs for organics recycling professionals, which enhance the profession of organics recycling facility management and in turn benefit the community, business and environmental outcomes. The founding commissioners were selected for both their dedication to the compost manufacturing industry and their track record as successful business people.
The development process started with identifying and defining which category of composting facility employee would be certified first. Through focus groups, key stakeholder interviews and background research, it was decided to start with the individual with day-to-day responsibility for the operation — the person who facility owners, regulators and the general public depend on to assure a well-run and successful composting operation. Once that person and the general job duties were defined, a large-scale survey was employed to validate and identify the balance among the knowledge “domains” (areas) that the CCOM job entails. Interestingly, survey respondents felt that all the domains were equally important and equally difficult (Table 1).
The Commissioners established the basic components of what is required to be certified — to meet the prerequisites and then pass a test. The four prerequisites are: High school diploma or equivalent; Minimum age of 21; Has attended a compost operations course of at least three days’ duration; Two years of full-time experience in the organics recycling industry, with at least one of those years in actual operations (not necessarily at a composting facility, e.g., could be working in a municipal organics collection program or as a consultant). Once these prerequisites are demonstrated through an online application, the candidate can then schedule and pay for the computer based test ($349 for USCC members; $449 for nonmembers), which can be taken at any of over 600 testing centers operated by the USCC’s test delivery partner, the Performance Assessment Network.