On Maintaining Professional Credentials and LEED Accreditation

Nate Young, Education Coordinator, BrightworksBy Nate Young, Education Coordinator

Much has been made of the mismatch between the available jobs in the current market and the lack of training among many job seekers (including on this blog). Companies seek and value employees that come trained in very specific ways, and are unwilling to invest in bringing unqualified prospects up to speed. Among the best ways to prove your worth to employers is to gain and maintain pertinent credentials and certifications while honing the skills those credentials require.

In the building professions, LEED accreditation has fast become one of the core qualifications employers seek.

Brightworks’ built environment staff and clients are just now experiencing the first wave of renewals within the credentialing maintenance system the USGBC rolled out in June 2009. Included in the revamped system is a Credential Maintenance Program (CMP), now run by partner organization GBCI. This program requires all LEED Accredited Professionals (APs) to complete continuing education to maintain their credentials on a two-year schedule.

Numerous Brightworks employees took the earliest exams under the new system and have now completed the first round of credential renewal. Our staff has been fielding calls from many clients and partners seeking help with the new system, so I wanted to share some tips and pointers to ease what can be a challenging process.

Don’t procrastinate

Take Notes!

Record keeping like this will get you in trouble.

For starters, depending on how prepared you are, expect to spend several hours completing the process of renewing your credential. Let me stress again – the renewal process is long and involved. It’s likely to last weeks, depending on the types of credits you are submitting for your credential. As an architect recently told me, “This is much more rigorous and confusing than maintaining my architect’s license with the state.” Please don’t wait until the week your credential lapses to begin!

Like cooking dinner or painting a room, things move much more quickly when you are thoroughly prepared. GBCI requires online reporting that asks for many details you probably haven’t been recording, and tracking them down will take time. I have created this tool (click to download) that can help to organize your CE information in the exact format you’ll need to complete “My Credentials” on GBCI’s website.

As you’ll see in the tool, you should be capturing several data points each time you participate in a learning event: Title, Date, Educational Topic/Category, Activity Delivery Method, Description (in one-to-three  sentences), Education Provider, In-person or Online, and Number of Hours. Other categories of education have different information you’ll need to capture – as detailed in GBCI’s Credential Maintenance Guide – but this is a good start.

Submitting credits isn’t always enough

A couple of other important notes on the process and requirements:

  • As I mentioned above, depending on what types of education credits you accrue, the process may not be done even after you submit 30 credits to the GBCI system. If you request to receive credit for “Authorship,” GBCI will have to approve any of those credits – likely by seeking out your article or book to prove that you actually did write what you stated. This has taken as long as three weeks for some of my colleagues!
  • Don’t forget: If you are renewing more than one credential, you need to submit credits for each one. For instance, if you are a LEED AP with BD+C as your primary specialty and EB O+M as your secondary specialty, you’ll need to submit at least 36 hours: you’ll need 30 hours for BD+C, of which at least six are LEED-specific hours (as defined by GBCI – see the Guide mentioned above) plus at least six LEED-specific hours for the EB O+M credential. Many project managers meet the LEED-specific requirement through work on LEED projects. If that’s not an option, you’ll have to take pre-approved courses that GBCI has recognized as meeting their criteria for LEED-specific education.
  • GBCI has committed to auditing at least 10 percent of all renewal submissions (one Brightworks team member out of six that have submitted for renewal has been audited so far). This means you should maintain proof of all CE hours you complete and submit. Most education providers, including Brightworks, will send a “Certificate of Completion” that will suffice for the audit. (Education providers are also required to keep records of attendance for seven years; so if you have lost your certificates and get audited, you can likely still contact the education provider for proof of attendance.)

Streamlining the process

In discussion with our contacts at USGBC/GBCI, they assure us they are working to streamline the renewal process. Indeed, some of my colleagues who went through the process in 2012 seemed to fare better than those early adopters that had to renew in 2011 – so it appears things are already getting better!

In the meantime, save yourself time by logging your credits as you complete them either in our tool (and here are a few others that clear up other CMP questions – see our Credentialing Resources) or directly to “My Credentials”.  And keep the end in mind – this process makes you valuable to your employer or future employer, and it can be the kick in the pants you need to keep learning and stay current with a changing market.

Make time for high-quality professional development. Your work and career trajectory will benefit. And your employer will thank you!

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