Insights from successful certification applicants

Insights from successful certification applicants

Three SCP Australia certified practitioners who have completed the application process and interview share their experience.

Podcast: length 14:30
Time spent on application :50
Most difficult thing 1:30
Advice on preparation 5:05
The interview 7:50

Transcript of the podcast

Carly Clark who is Principal Scientist with SEMF and Sector Leader, Environment in Melbourne, Joe Pedicini who is Principal Consultant with LBW Environmental Projects in Adelaide, and Christopher Sandiford who is Senior Associate Environmental Scientist with Senversa in Melbourne.

Q1: How much time did you spend on preparing your application?

Carly: In total I probably spent about 40 hours, including a review process.
Joe: 40 to 50 hours definitely. Particularly in considering how I would approach the questions on the competencies.
Christopher: I was probably around the 30 to 40 to hour mark, a lot of it going back trying to access information from historical reports that were relevant. Actually when looking at what might work it was probably more like 50 hours in the end.

Q2: What was the most difficult thing about preparing an application for certification?
Carly: The most difficult thing for me was putting time aside to actually prepare the submission. I think when I was reading through I initially under estimated the time required to detail the project specifics for each of the six competencies, and the submission deadline seemed to approach very quickly. I also found it quite difficult to find a balance in my response around regurgitating the NEPM, to demonstrate that I knew what I was talking about versus demonstrating relevant field and reporting experience. It took a fair bit of time to go through reporting archives to dig out suitable reports.
Paul (Interviewer): By that do you mean connecting your examples with the NEPM?
Carly: Yes, so rather than just regurgitating the NEPM and saying what you would do in an assessment process actually going back and finding a report and demonstrating how you followed the NEPM in that assessment.
Joe: I’d agree with Carly making time for it and having that deadline approaching quickly was one problem. For me the most significant difficulty was trying to align 20 years and hundreds of projects into the six competencies questions and trying to keep my demonstrations of what I knew very specific to a project. And being able to say I learnt this through this project. Because in reality, I learnt what I know from a hundred different projects, and trying to put a project or two or three to a particular competency and demonstrate directly that I had personally gained that experience and not just read about it was very difficult. I found myself going back over and over and changing it, trying to work out which projects I would use and trying to keep them more relevant.
Christopher: The most difficult thing was identifying historical reports that I could still get access to that met the guidelines. I have worked with a few different companies and don’t have access to historical reports. I would really recommend starting the process early, and trying to identify four, five, six or more projects that may be relevant and gaining client agreement to use those projects early on so when it comes time to write the response, and get into the nitty-gritty of it you’ve got a few different reports that you can draw on.
Paul (interviewer): Did you have to contact previous clients that you no longer worked for to get their permission to use the reports you worked on for them?
Christopher: In the end I didn’t, I thought I may have to. But I was able to identify enough current client reports I was able to use, but I was thinking I may need to do. It was a time critical thing in the end that I wanted to use current client reports. But give yourself enough time to identify those reports and try and get as many as you can in the bank to make the actually assessment writing process a lot easier.

Q3: What sort of advice would give people in preparing their application?
Carly: Make sure you allow enough time. Don’t underestimate how much time it’s going to take. I think it’s very important to use the self-assessment tool appropriately as a screening tool to indicate whether you are likely to achieve certification. You can then identify knowledge gaps and from there training needs and align that to your work. The application process is time consuming and it’s important to be confident that adequate justification of experience in each of the competencies can be provided to demonstrate suitability of certification.
Joe: If you have the luxury of time and have got enough time ahead of you, before you go for certification that you be familiar with the competencies and how they are set out and start logging projects that you work on along those lines. So when it comes time to prepare an application you’ve got your projects lined up, you know which ones relate to which competencies and you can make a really good job of the application. If on the other hand, you don’t plan to wait that long or you’re not that early in your career I would say don’t rush it, take your time and look at the competencies and try to line that up as best you can with specific examples of your work.
Christopher: I would get people to read through the whole process initially and do use that assessment tool, it’s quite handy and doesn’t take too long. It is quite judgemental and difficult to work out initially where you may fit in, but once you’ve done it, I know I went back and did it a couple of times after starting the process, it helped to get my head around what was really involved. I thought it was really good to do early. I would probably say it’s good to knock off a little bit at a time, if you can identify some relevant assessment reports that you’ve got and information that you can get down, then do it in bits. I would really try and emphasize identifying particular jobs and reports you’ve worked on early and getting that client approval early on so you can have access to information when it comes time to write the report.

Q4: How did you find the interview process?
Carly: I actually found the interview process quite enjoyable. I was initially so nervous for the panel interview because it’s very different to any interview I have had previously, and it seemed very daunting. But I liked the idea of how it was run with the case study assessment and I was given ample time to gather my thoughts and write down some notes and then the interview gave me an opportunity to further demonstrate my knowledge around contaminated land assessment and the questions that were asked by the interviewers prompted me to provide additional details as required, where I may not have been strong in my written response, I had a chance to verbally explain what I meant.
Joe: My experience was very similar. I’ve sat the auditor interview once and that was so much more confrontational; I have to say that when I went into this interview I thought it might be similar and that was my only concern. But in fact, your assurance (Paul) before the interview; you said the interview would be supportive and about teasing out those things that perhaps had not been demonstrated clearly in my application- and that was what it was. I found the case study and the interviewers, the panel and the questions to be very good, very much about trying to explain things that perhaps I had not covered well. I found I actually enjoyed the case study, it was very similar to a project I worked on, I certainly wasn’t concerned technically when I saw it. And the questions were very well aimed and did help me in fact explain more than I had initially thought about. I found it very supportive.
Christopher: I wouldn’t say my experience was enjoyable like Carly. It was a positive experience; it’s not often that you’re put under the hammer like that. But I think for me it was going back to basics and having a look at the case study you had in front of you and putting together a conceptual site model in your head and looking at the source-path-receptor and then really trying to sum that up and answer the questions they (interview panel) required. It all pulled together using that fundamental way we answer most of our questions in contaminated land management. The questions were logical and what I might have expected. Maybe a little more around how you would advise a client, I wasn’t expecting that and maybe some of the questions were a little bit different to what I might have anticipated but were basic and fundamental questions around how we assess and manage risks associated with contaminated land.

Q5: Overall, what are your thoughts on the assessment process?
Carly: Overall, I thought the assessment process was robust. The national scheme provides confidence that investigations will be conducted in accordance with national guidelines and reports will be prepared to an appropriate standard. I think the application process was more time consuming than I had anticipated and maybe than it needs to be. But I think the interview was the key component in demonstrating knowledge and I was thankful I had the opportunity to sit the interview process.
Joe: Initially on seeing the application I thought I have had 20 years in the business I should be able to fill this in and get an automatic certification. But in working through the process I started to think this is a good opportunity to demonstrate and go through what you know and put it into specific categories and see where you are really competent and where you need improvements or where you may not actually want to venture into, like specifically into remediation management. So it is a really good opportunity to go through the application and the interview and tease out what you do know. Overall the process was very good, possibly the only comment I would have, is that I could have spent less time on the application and assumed I would get an interview and focus on the interview. I think the application process might be refined with time so that it is different for different levels of expertise or for a person who has been in the industry a different amount of time.
Paul: Would you suggest for people who have a lot of experience the focus should be more on an interview? Is that what you’re thinking?
Joe: Yes, that is what I am thinking.
Christopher: It is a difficult process to set up a national wide scheme. It’s done really well. The combination of the written and the interview I think really teased out a lot of the key issues. If I missed things in the written response, which by the end of 40 hours I just wanted to get it in, it gives you the opportunity to follow up on things in the interview. It is a reasonable process for quite a difficult scheme to set up.