Interview with SCP Australia assessors
Two SCP Australia assessors share their experience of the assessment process.
Todd Mitchell, Associate Director with AECOM in Melbourne.
Ruth Keogh, Principal Environmental Scientist with FYFE in Adelaide.
Q1. Assessors participating in assessment subcommittees can spend on average 30 hours of their own time reviewing applications in a process which runs over 40 days- this is a considerable commitment for busy professionals- Why have you volunteered your time to participate in the assessment subcommittee?
Ruth: I volunteered to participate in the assessment subcommittee because I wanted to support the scheme. I believe that it (such a scheme) is overdue and has the potential to provide a number of benefits to the contaminated land profession as well as to regulators and clients. I think it has the potential to help raise the standard of work, particularly in reporting associated with contaminated site assessment and remediation, and it also provides a career goal for up and coming professionals. It also provides some recognition for people who have been in the industry for a while, recognising their knowledge and skills, particularly for people who do not want to achieve auditor accreditation.
Todd: Having been involved in the contaminated land industry for over two decades, I can see a real advantage for accreditation in industry for practitioners, especially for those who are not auditors and do not want to be an auditor. I have been pretty keen to participate in the subcommittees to promote the program. It also serves to improve the quality of work across the contaminated land industry.
Q2: What is the hardest thing about being part of an assessment subcommittee?
Todd: In short, the hardest thing is finding time outside of work to look at applications. I am very careful in assessing each application, and I want to do so equally and to provide measured evaluation.
Ruth: I would have to agree with Todd. The hardest thing I have found is that there is a lot of time involved and, like Todd, I also want to make sure I do a good job when I assess the applications. So I found there was quite a bit of juggling with other commitments to try and meet the deadlines. The other thing that I think is a bit difficult is that, with having three assessors on each subcommittee (assessment panel), there can be some discrepancies in our conclusions. It hasn’t ultimately proved to be too difficult, but there is a certain amount of calibration required to ensure that we are all judging the applications in a similar way.
Q3: What is a common weakness you have come across when reviewing an application?
Ruth: A common weakness in applications is where applicants are failing to specifically address the criteria and provide enough information and personal examples to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Some of the applicants appear to rely quite heavily on their CVs (curriculum vitae), particularly some of the more experienced ones, and also on their example reports, to demonstrate their experience. But we are actually looking for professionals who are able to show that they can communicate well and address stated objectives, because we are looking to accredit professionals who can improve the standard of reporting across the industry.
Todd: I tend to agree with Ruth. The most common weakness is the applicant’s lack of personal experience. It’s not just about the number of years you have been in the environment industry. In order to demonstrate the level of competency required for assessors to be satisfied of a person’s expertise as a practitioner, the person will need a minimum level of experience at a broad range of contaminated land competencies. Addressing the competency elements by cutting and pasting from the NEPM is a common negative observation by the assessors; you need to be a practitioner.
Q4: Each of you have participated in two assessment rounds as assessors and have conducted interviews of applicants. In your opinion what do you think an applicant can do to prepare for an interview?
Todd: The interview essentially consists of a series of questions based on a case study. You might get asked questions about specific technical issues, but applicants should be thinking about the case study with a conceptual site model in mind. This is really key to communicating in the interview.
Ruth: I would agree with Todd. I think the conceptual site model is particularly important and an understanding of how to come up with a conceptual site model. But I would say that if an applicant does have the required experience in the site contamination field they shouldn’t need to prepare for an interview, because the interview is about getting them to show us that they do have that experience and knowledge to address the issues that are put forward in a case study. Also, we would expect the interviewee would show an appropriate level of competency and confidence in order to be successful at the interview stage.