Contributed by Connie Bersok, SER Board Member, Regional Representative, Southeast North America
Photo: Bob Grese
The new certification program provided by SER is BIG news for ecological restoration professionals.
Why would someone go through the process of application for certification? Yes, it will take some of your time, effort, and funds. But it is the only certification available that reflects the multi-disciplinary profession of ecological restoration and acknowledges your set of ecological restoration knowledge, skills, and experience. Furthermore, the education, training, and experience requirements for re-certification every 5 years provide a framework for ensuring continuing education in this rapidly evolving field of ecological restoration.
The certification program was designed to meet the needs of a wide suite of ecological restoration practitioners, each of whom bring their own expertise, whether they work in the private or public sector, are just starting in this profession or have years of experience.
So, why does it matter if you are certified?
Many professions develop a certified credential to distinguish a bona fide practitioner from those who lack legitimacy or interest. Obtaining a certificate is discretionary and not an automatic benefit of SER membership; it must be earned, applied for and maintained via payment of fees and completion of continuing education requirements. It is intended to have value.
Your certification signifies that your knowledge base/academic training and work experience meet the standards established by SER for a practicing ecological restoration professional. In addition, it acknowledges your adherence to a standard of ethics with regard to the conduct and practice of ecological restoration. Certification confers a special form of credibility that may be instrumental in securing a job, a contract, a client, and in furthering your professional career. SER will maintain a ledger of certificate holders for potential employers and practitioners will be able to use their SER certification credential in advertising and marketing.
Let me share a story from a time when I taught in a public high school. It was a tradition among the graduating seniors to play a prank during the commencement ceremony. One year, every senior carried a single glass marble. As each student crossed the stage to receive their diploma and shake hands with the school principal, they would pass the marble to the principal. The principal simply placed each marble in one pocket of his pants. Then he filled the other pocket. Until, finally, the weight and volume of the marbles became so great that the principal had to stop the ceremony and empty his pockets. Fortunately, the principal was good-natured and appreciated the last prank from this group of seniors. More importantly, the message of this prank has long been remembered in the community: seemingly small acts by a group of individuals can have a strong cumulative effect.
Similarly, as each restoration professional becomes certified, that certification represents their unique and individual education (both background and on-going) and practical experience, in addition to a commitment to the ethics of ecological restoration. The cumulative impact of this community of certified professionals will be to establish high expectations within the practice of ecological restoration, and thus to improve implementation on the ground.