Safety certifications. What’s the fuss all about?

I have been opportune to have some really cool conversations with Safety professionals and many get jealous of the new employee who just stumbled on a Safety role without certification. Is certification really necessary though? Isn’t experience supposed to be the best teacher?

Years back I was awarded the GradIOSH status thanks to my masters program. So I was automatically a step away from Chartered status which I could achieve if I put in the work. GradIOSH without real experience? I felt like a fraud. After getting my master’s I went for my first interview to become a Safety Officer at one of the councils in London. I got the job but never started. A few months later, I was subsequently offered paid work at the London Hazards Centre where I had now been volunteering for 18months. A year later, I met the Safety manager at this council at a conference in Central London and we hit it off and got talking. We talked about my interview. I really wanted to know how I did. He actually told me I was crap at the interview but was the best out of all the people they interviewed. He says it was obvious I had no experience but they knew I could do the job. I guess my fire safety presentation at the interview was what did it for me – maybe.

So all my studying and volunteering the past 12 months wasn’t enough. I actually needed experience to back this qualification. Without experience you will suck at your job and that interview except of course you were being employed as a trainee to be taught from scratch.

For instance, I employed a new staff at my mum’s school to teach the Year 1 students. The minute she stepped into my office, she said “I want to teach. I haven’t taught in years but it really is my passion and now I want to pursue it. Infact I already applied to start my PGDE”. She gave me her CV and I was blown away! She has worked as a News Reporter, Brand manager, PA to some top oil and gas company directors, and had taught English Language so I wondered why she wanted to teach and earn way less than she did in the past. She looked so posh and spoke with a beautiful nearly foreign accent. She spoke too well and I knew the kids would love her. Kids love pretty ladies especially if they speak well. My little cousin loves it when I go to his school. He just likes to show off his pretty aunty (that’s me showing off). Lol. He is a darling!

So this lady even had a degree in Linguistics (no wonder she spoke so posh) and a Masters in Public Relations but no teaching qualification. Her last teaching experience was a good 10 years ago. I looked at her and asked “why do you want to teach if you have all this experience and could really get a good paying job?” I even tried to discourage her by telling her the salary would be very low. She smiled and said she knew. I asked because everyone knows that teachers in Nigeria earn rubbish except you teach in the international schools where kids pay millions of Naira as school fees.

The short of it is that now she has kids of her own and no longer saw the big jobs as good enough if she wanted to really care for her kids and bond with them. She wanted to be their mother, mentor, teacher, nurse, everything to them. I was blown away.

But I was worried she didn’t have the necessary qualifications though she showed lots of enthusiasm. Then I remembered the staff member I had to fire only a few days earlier. He had been teaching for over 15years in various schools. Even had all the necessary qualifications infact a first degree in Education but he was so crappy at his job. He was nonchallant, spoke to the kids rudely, failed woefully as a teacher and a mentor. He was with us for just 2 months and the hell we went through those 2 months is unforgettable.

I don’t just fire – I give warning, lots of verbal warning before a formal one and then the dismissal. On this occasion, he never got a formal warning it was instant dismissal after lots of verbal warning in the past. The thing is I like to be at every interview so I choose staff myself (not that I will get it right all the time) but when he was employed, I was away and gave my approval after I heard how fantastically he did at the interview. It was all a pretence! I instantly saw him as a hooligan (area boy) just 4 days after he resumed duties. How can someone with qualifications and lots of experience be this incompetent? I often wondered but I decided to give him time to settle in and get used to our ways but he never really wanted to work. Not with us or anyone else – he was hungry and needed to earn money but didn’t want to put in the work. My best teachers are those with few years of experience who are willing to continually improve themselves. Many never studied education but they have degrees and have taught for years. Infact you can see the teacher in them. They make me happy. So yes I decided to give this posh lady a chance. My guts and everything in me tells me she is right for us. She starts in April. Can’t wait. dancing

We always have a training week right before we resume where we train the teachers on different aspects of teaching and lesson planning. We review the school’s teaching and learning policies and discuss what works, what isn’t working and iron out difficult aspects. So my new teacher will be attending this training which is a good start! She will also have a mentor and an experienced teaching assistant incase she gets stuck. Wondering if I did the same for Mr Hooligan? Mr Hooligan did have mentors but never a teaching assistant as he was a subject teacher for the High School plus he did have many years of teaching experience.

What I learnt from this experience was to give everyone equal chances to prove themselves and offer additional support to those who obviously need it. I also have gained some interviewing skills and this experience with Mr Hooligan got me asking many questions which will be going on my interview questions lists asap!

My question to you is do you value certification over experience? Tell us why by leaving a comment.