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ISO 29990 Certification - Why not ISO 17024 or IRCA Approval?

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We hold ISO 29990 Certification for our e-learning business, and this was a considered choice

We started by asking what would be the best choice for Lead Auditors, Consultants and others wishing to audit, implement or maintain ISO Management Systems to a high standard.  The obvious choice is ISO 17024, Conformity assessment – General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons,  offering the possibility of auditors having accredited certification for their auditor training. And this standard got a mention in ISO 19011:2010 as a possible step towards competency in auditing.   But that was the end of it.  We found one company offering such accredited certification training some years ago based in Australasia but nothing since.  No organization is promoting such certification and, more importantly, no accreditation body requires such training for the lead auditors of the CABs they audit. So, there is no demand from the marketplace from CABs, accreditation boards, industry, commerce or elsewhere.

Social media around ISO 9001 and other Standards is constantly carping on about auditors making findings based on opinion, freely interpreting standards requirements based on their own preferences, consultants who don't understand the requirements of updated Standards and still implementing systems nera identical to those they implemented 10-15 years ago, etc.  ISO 17024 offers a wya of significantly improving things.  However, until such time as ISO 17024 accredited certification is mandatory the current situation where, effectively, professional training of auditors is optional will persist.

From the viewpoint of a training organization, then, ISO 17024 accreditation is a non-starter.  So, the question becomes ...

IRCA Approved vs. ISO 29990 Certified - which is better?

This is a question prospective ISO auditors frequently ask themselves when selecting suitable training course.  It was also the question that we at deGRANDSON asked when we established the business eight years ago. With the recent amalgamation of IRCA with their parent CQI (it will be CQI/IRCA from now on), we decided to review the comparison between the two ISO Auditor Certification options, both from the training organisation’s viewpoint and from the learner’s viewpoint.

Click here to learn more about the 40+ ISO Auditor Certification Courses we offer

Here’s what we found …

Comparison… IRCA Certification ISO 29990 Certification
Courses Approved Yes Yes
Approved Training Providers/Learning Service Providers Yes Yes
Published ATP/LSP approval criteria No Yes
Internationally recognised ATP/LSP approval criteria No Yes
Initial Auditing of Providers Yes Yes
Annual Auditing of Providers No Yes
Independent 3rd-party Auditing No Yes
Low on-going Fees for ATP/LSP No Yes
Recognised internationally No Yes
Free Register of Auditors No Yes
No on-going Fees for auditor registration No Yes
Curriculum approval & monitoring No Yes
Trainer/instructor approval & monitoring * No Yes
Learning environment approval & monitoring * No Yes
Monitoring delivery of learning services No Yes
On-going evaluation of learning goals and scope No Yes
On-going evaluation of the learning service No Yes
Ongoing evaluation of the learner experience No Yes
  • Our Courses are delivered online by LMS (Learning Management System) so no trainer/instructor is involved and the Learner chooses their own learning environment (could be the back of a bus going to work).

And so, our opinion has not changed. We still consider that, for all learners and for our business, ISO 29990 remains the superior choice.

Here is the thinking behind our scoring…

  1. IRCA approve Courses; they do not deliver them. Training is delivered by IRCA Approved Training Partners (or ATPs). Note that claims that organisations are ‘IRCA accredited training organisations’ or that courses are ‘IRCA accredited’ are no longer made.
  2. While ATP selection criteria are not in the public domain, organisations seem to be initially vetted prior to approval and, on the payment of ongoing fees, their status is maintained with little formal auditing of their performance.
  3. We find that there is little recognition of IRCA outside the United Kingdom. And so, costly IRCA approval would provide little, if any, benefit to overseas-based Auditors.
  4. You may find that last comment strange as IRCA maintains a register of certified auditors. In the past this register was often used by certification bodies when selecting competent lead auditors. But for several years now the register has been redundant.

Since about 2011 the standard for certification bodies, ISO 17021, has required that the certification bodies themselves take responsibility for deciding on the competence of the lead auditors and the other auditors they select for their audit teams.  And that competence is based on a suitable combination of training, technical expertise, knowledge of relevant standards, and auditing experience - no mention of a register.

  1. ISO 29990 as the basis for certification of a training organisation has one great attraction. Being one of the ISO 9001 family of standards it requires that the Learning Service Provider (LSP) be subject to periodic independent audits. This ensures that, standards of performance having been established, they are maintained and improved on over time.
  2. And, of course, ISO 2990 certification has international recognition built-in.
  3. The standard has requirements in relation to both learning services and to the management of the LSP. In brief, these are…

Learning services

Determining learning needs incl. Stakeholder needs

Design of the learning services incl. Curriculum planning

Provision of learning services incl. a suitable learning environment

Monitoring the delivery of the learning services

Evaluation of goals and scope, of learning and of the learning service

Management of the LSP

General management requirements

Strategy and business management

Management review

Preventive actions and corrective actions

Financial management and risk management

Human resources management incl. competencies of the LSP's staff and associates

Communication management (internal/external)

Allocation of resources

Internal Audits

Stakeholder feedback

Overall - ISO 29990 is the one for us - recognised and accepted worldwide by CABs and Accreditation Boards

We consider that IRCA certification, which has been around and well-respected for more than 30 years, is not the best option for the 2010s.  Instead, we believe that these days ISO 29990 certification a superior option as it offers both the Learner and the Sponsor, who often pays for the Learner, real assurance as to the performance and capabilities of the chosen training organisation.

That is of course until, if ever, the market decides that personal certification as per ISO 17024 is a better option. But that’s a story for another day.

 Choice of ISO 45001 Courses

Note: This post is an updated and extended version of a previous post published in 2017.

Written by Dr John FitzGerald

Director and founder of deGRANDSON Global. After 15 years in manufacturing industry John has spent the past 25 years training, consulting and auditing ISO 9001 and other management systems. 'Our objective is to be a world-class provider of e-training using the best proven technology so to satisfy and, hopefully, delight all of our Learners. Great commercial success and professional esteem will surely follow.' Full profile: https://degrandson.co.uk/team/john-fitzgerald/
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