President Janet Cole is interested in feedback from ASHS Members. Please read the following article and provide any feedback in the form at the bottom of the page.
Reflections December 2018
Professional Certification: Certified Horticulturist
Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed some time with family and friends during the holidays. I also hope you had some time to do something that you enjoy outside of work to decompress a little!
Last month my “Reflections” column discussed the ASHS Certified Professional Horticulturist (CPH) program. That certification program is most applicable to ASHS members, but ASHS does have another certification for people who work in the industry but may or may not have a formal horticulture education. That certification is the Certified Horticulturist (CH) program. This program has been an underutilized program to date. There are a couple of reasons that I have heard for this underutilization. One is that many people outside of our organization have not heard of ASHS and therefore do not know anything about our certification programs or anything else that we do. Another is that people who are not ASHS members see ASHS as a research society that would not have many opportunities for folks who are not in research-related positions. While ASHS has done some advertisement of the CH in trade journals, budgets have not been adequate to do a large-scale marketing program to bring the certification to the audience that might take advantage of it.
The CH program provides a test-based certification. The test covers a broad range of horticultural topics. It was based on a job task analysis that was done prior to exam development. That job task analysis surveyed people in a large cross section of the horticulture industry and identified tasks that they perform on a frequent basis to identify topics that should be included in the exam to show competency.
Once the job task analysis was completed and analyzed, the CH Board along with many other volunteers went to work writing questions to address those competency areas identified. While many of us are old hands at writing exams for our classes, the group learned that there are proper and improper ways to write questions for certification exams. It was a great learning experience for those involved! When question-writing was completed, the test was vetted by having a smaller group of people in the target audience take the exam. Based on the results of their exams, questions were re-examined and revised if needed to be clear and concise.
People interested in being certified as a CH can apply through ASHS and take the exam at a variety of testing locations. These locations are sometimes associated with public gardens that have been willing to partner with ASHS to provide a place for the exam and a proctor. Exams are also offered in some states as part of state association meetings.
Once a candidate passes the exam and has the minimum 3-year work experience requirement completed, he/she is certified for a 3-year period and can recertify at the end of the certification period by earning 30 continuing education units (CEUs) during the certification period and paying the recertification fee. If less than 30 CEUs are earned, then the certification lapses and recertification will require taking the exam again.
There has been concern among the ASHS Board of Directors about the future of this program for several years. Because very few people have taken the CH exam (110 certified of 153 who applied since the program began in 2009) there has been minimal income to invest in updating the exam. The Board has given the program until the end of 2019 to increase to 1000 applicants for the program. With this in mind, the CH Board has been reorganized to include several CHs along with some of the long-time members of ASHS that have been involved in the CH program from its inception. The hope is that the CHs on the CH Board can help identify ways to market the program to the proper audience.
Another way to make prospective applicants for the CH program aware that it is available is to partner with state green industry associations. This was the hope of the CH Board from the start, as ASHS does not want to compete with state associations. Rather, ASHS would like to partner so that the state associations might provide an exam site and help with marketing and ASHS could provide the exam, grading, and certificates. The Wyoming Groundskeepers and Growers Association has helped with this for several years thanks to Karen Panter, who works closely with that organization and has served as the exam proctor. Other state associations have recently expressed interest in partnering with ASHS to provide the CH exam to their members. I have been working with those associations and the ASHS Executive Committee to try to find ways to partner that will be beneficial to ASHS, the state associations, and state association members who likely are not ASHS members.
In the meantime, the CH Board is also investigating ways to better market this certification program. Do you have ideas on how to market it to the right audience? I would like to hear those ideas!
Contact me at email@example.com or provide feedback in the form below.