Certification for service providers

Just curious but what do you all think of ranking or certifying the sorts of service providers (freelance designers, technical designers, illustrators, pattern makers, sample makers, sewing contractors etc) that designers are likely to hire? I’ve long thought somebody should do something. I’ve seen more abuses than I care to count from people providing services they’re not qualified to offer. DEs have lost a lot of money …and heart! How are consumers to know their service provider meets minimal competency standards established by peers?

I think we need something like this so I’ve launched a test program on our forum. If you’re a member, you can weigh in there or post your comments here (I’ve included the email that I sent to members last night). Initially I had some trepidation but I’ve become rather excited and looking forward to reading the criteria by which people think their peers should be evaluated. Of course, I anticipated service providers to be reluctant, worried it’d put them to disadvantage and they haven’t disappointed me in expressing their reservations. My point is, the forum is for designers. The forum -while a partnership- is not a barrel constructed to make fishing for customers more convenient and easy. Without designers, we don’t eat; the forum should be arranged to put their needs first. I think we (service providers) lack integrity if we fail to inconvenience ourselves just because we fear the scrutiny of our peers, colleagues and competitors. Put it this way, I much prefer that we police ourselves rather than forcing designers to do it because we will not. They shouldn’t have to do that. If we have any integrity in our craft and self respect, we’ll set minimal standards of competency for ourselves.

This is the email I sent to members last night:
We’ve needed a method of ranking or certifying our service provider members such as contractors, pattern makers, etc so that designer members can know which individuals they should consider hiring. Some designers have said they’ve been reluctant to post questions about another member. I understand that and I think I’ve come up with a solution.

Effective immediately, if one member wants to let others know they are available for hire, they must submit to a jurying process to be certified. Once approved, everyone will know because their membership status (off to the left of every post) will read “Certified Service Provider” rather than “Supporting Member” like it does now.

Designers, it will not be recommended that you hire anyone who has not applied or been approved to be a certified service provider. If you decide to risk hiring someone who isn’t willing to withstand the rigor of examination of their peers, that’s your decision. If someone solicits your business or a job and they have not applied for certification, you should ask them why they haven’t and of course tell me because the other new rule is no soliciting (I know it’s done via PM or email) unless you’re certified.

As soon as an individual applies or makes it known they want to be certified (by emailing me), their membership status will be changed to “Service Provider -Status Pending”. If you want to see what this new membership status looks like, see our volunteer guinea pig’s.

I added another forum for certifications under bios. Each applicant will have their own thread. The first post will list the specific service(s) they are applying to provide and the date. When their review materials are received, this will be noted. The criteria of jurying and their scores will be posted. And of course, anyone using the service provider is welcome to add comments on the services they received from the service provider at any point in time.

Members will be certified for specific functions. For example, someone who provides design assistance will NOT be certified for a separate function of technical design unless they apply and test for that specifically. If you’re not a pattern maker in the latter example, I don’t suggest you attempt it. Someone may be certified to make patterns but the specific type will be noted (knits, wovens, leather etc). This applies to contracting, sample making, consulting, everything.

So, until further notice designers, if you want to hire someone, ask me first. If the party has not applied, I will notify them of the policy change in the event this has escaped their notice. If they do not choose to participate, that’s an answer for you there and I will notify you. If they do choose to, then until we can process them, I’ll post a thread and solicit comments from members as to their performance (PMs/emails are okay).

There will be a fee, I don’t know how much. All I know is that it’ll be based on costs (evaluation time and admin). Nobody’s going to make money on it. I expect to lose money on it. You might not think this is fair but look at it this way, you make money here, it’s a revenue source that doesn’t cost you anything. It takes time to evaluate and analyze this stuff -to say nothing of developing it in the first place.

That’s all for now. If you want to provide suggestions to the selection process criteria or standards to consider, please email me. Likewise, email me if you want to apply for the certification process and I’ll update you as I get the materials together.

Thanks for your time and I hope you agree this measure is something we’ve needed for a long time.

PS. In case you wonder even I must be certified. I wouldn’t be setting much of an example it I didn’t go through it myself.

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  1. dosfashionistas says:

    Kathleen; This certification process is a service you are going to be providing. You should make money on it. Even if others volunteer and help on this, so that it becomes a self-policing effort, you should at the very least break even. Or set it up as a non-profit venture, so that it can make a bit of money and support itself. This should not be another drain on your time and energy. You give of yourself so generously in this blog…pouring yourself out like a fountain for all of us.

    When you get it ready, I’m going to take the patternmaker test even though I am not “working” at present. Could we have a catagory for Certified but Inactive?


  2. Kathleen says:

    This certification process is a service you are going to be providing. You should make money on it. Even if others volunteer and help on this, so that it becomes a self-policing effort, you should at the very least break even.

    I’ll settle for breaking even. That’s the goal. And I’ll need plenty of help. This needs a buy in from everyone, I can’t do it alone. It’d be really awful if it flopped because service providers couldn’t or wouldn’t make time to participate to improve their own industry.

    When you get it ready, I’m going to take the patternmaker test even though I am not “working” at present. Could we have a catagory for Certified but Inactive?

    Just because you’re certified, doesn’t mean you’re forced to accept work. The whole program is voluntary. No one has to participate. They just can’t solicit work via email/PM on the forum. In your case, I’d love if you’d become a mentor. As people filter through, I’ll be looking for more reviewers. Perhaps you’d help with that? We also need people to help establish appropriate criteria for evaluation. This will be posted to the forum. There will be no trick questions or hidden agendas. One could (and should) prepare accordingly. Call it “teaching to the test” but it’s better than what we have now -nothing!

    The other purpose of the program is to discover the varying skill levels so we can nurture and mentor beginners and students to progress professionally. Rather like apprenticeship programs. There’s nothing like that now. We can help people grow and improve once we have a baseline of their skills as compared to varying levels of competency. We need a protective supportive environment to help students and learners.

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