AdmiNZ has taken a significant step towards a formal qualification requirement for administrative professionals, explains Eth Lloyd

A question that is often asked is, “Do qualifications matter in the administrative profession?” The simple answer is no – if you have an administrative role and do not have a specific qualification, then it hasn’t mattered.

However, I suggest another way of looking at this question. Almost all professions have relevant qualifications: to be a nurse you need a nursing degree, to be a teacher you need a teaching degree, to be an accountant you need an accountancy degree, and so on. This indicates that a qualification, in those examples a degree, is part of working in a profession; it is part of the recognition of a profession.

Administrative professionals may or may not have a degree or a relevant qualification at any level. It is not required, it isn’t asked for and therefore it isn’t needed. This of course has a consequence, something we hear over and over again: “My role isn’t valued!”, “I’m not seen as working in a profession”, and “It’s just a job!”, all of which highlight the desire to have our work recognised as a profession. This boils down to the “Image of the Profession”, a topic that comes up for discussion at every World Administrators Summit and for which the World Administrators Alliance has developed tools to support administrative professionals globally.

In New Zealand, qualifications (vocational certificates and diplomas) being achieved in the workplace is something that has been available since the 1990s, but recent government vocational education reviews have taken it away, likely an unintended consequence. The Association of Administrative Professionals New Zealand Inc (AdmiNZ) decided they needed to do something about this.

AdmiNZ Micro-credential Qualification Project

For close to 30 years, vocational qualifications were achievable in New Zealand through being assessed in the workplace. The workplace-assessed qualifications administrative professionals were able to achieve were generally national qualifications in business administration and first line management, demonstrating the work they do in the workplace. This work was aligned, by a qualified workplace assessor, against the requirements of the formal qualification.

In 2004, AdmiNZ launched its certification programme, a form of registration such as those required for other professions (nurses, teachers, accountants, etc.). AdmiNZ Certification has three requirements, one of which is a formal qualification at a specific educational level (Level 5 or above) of 120+ credits. AdmiNZ Certification was sought after by its members, and others joined so they could achieve it.

In the mid-2000s, the New Zealand Qualification Authority undertook a total review of qualifications. This led to our qualification becoming the New Zealand Diploma in Business with a specialist strand in Administration & Technology. An advantage of this was administrative work being a recognised part of business, as is project management, for example.

An unintended outcome was that the credits required in Business had one part that was so specific that it could not be assessed in the workplace, taking away the ability to achieve the qualification through workplace assessment. To achieve the qualification through new learning meant the specialist strand in Administration & Technology put administrative professionals back in the classroom, learning skills and knowledge they already held – a huge turn-off for adult learners. There was no flexibility in the new system for achieving through a mix of workplace learning and classroom learning.

In 2017, a further significant government review of the whole vocational education provider sector was undertaken. The outcomes of this further cemented the inaccessibility of workplace assessment for our AdmiNZ members. A few members continue to undertake their qualifications through face-to-face or distance learning, as that works for them. However, overall, these changes led to a reduction in AdmiNZ members being eligible to apply for certification – down to one per year compared with up to eight per year. A loss of credentialing opportunities for our members.

Additionally, at this time it became clear that administrative professionals, especially those who were younger, were seeking professional development and that was the main reason for them joining AdmiNZ. AdmiNZ also continued to receive requests for workplace assessment, which we could no longer offer. We had a gap in what we offered, and we needed to fill it.

In 2019, an exciting conversation took place between Jonny Flutey from Victoria University of Wellington and Eth Lloyd, Life Member and Professional Development Advisor to AdmiNZ, arranged by Vicky Faint (then National President of AdmiNZ, EA to the Vice-Chancellor Victoria University). Our Qualifications Authority was accepting specially developed, industry-specific micro-credentials for the delivery of workplace training.

This conversation quickly led to starting the process of developing AdmiNZ’s own micro-credentials reflecting the work that our members do every day. Each micro-credential would be worth 20 credits and could be used as building blocks for our AdmiNZ Professional Diploma in Business Administration, 120 credits. These micro-credentials would be assessed in the workplace and would be delivered by AdmiNZ’s own workplace assessors. Achievement would be recognised through electronic badging, which could be attached to electronic signatures, CVs, etc. Achievement would lead to applying for AdmiNZ Certification if the candidate was an AdmiNZ member.

A small team of volunteers – Vicki Faint, Janine Hawthorn, Eth Lloyd, and Sherie Pointon – worked steadily from 2020 until the end of 2023, under the guidance of Jonny, and developed seven micro-credentials. These were submitted to our New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) at the end of 2023 for equivalency assessment against our NZ qualification Level 5, except one, which would be at Level 6, and all worth 20 credits each. Acceptance of the level and credit value came through from NZQA in mid-January 2024.

We expect to launch our AdmiNZ micro-credentials in April 2024. AdmiNZ has two qualified workplace assessors and will require more to be trained as the need grows. We have designed our own electronic badges. We will need a student management system very shortly. We are the only professional body in New Zealand to offer industry-specific qualifications for the 240,000+ administrative professionals who work in our country. Non-members can enrol for the micro-credentials, but only members can apply for certification.

The Micro-credentials

We have seven micro-credentials, each worth 20 credits, of which six must be completed to achieve the AdmiNZ Professional Diploma in Business Administration:

  • Administration Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • HR Administration Skills
  • Technology Skills
  • Project/Event Management Skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • Leadership (Team Management) Skills

Each micro-credential requires the completion of four tasks. Primarily each micro-credential has only four tasks available, with the exceptions of:

  • Administration Skills – where there are three compulsory tasks and of the two elective tasks, one must be completed.
  • Technology Skills – where there is one compulsory task and three others of the remaining six must be completed.

These electives allow for the different environments administrative professionals work in and the wide-ranging skills they hold.

Achieving three micro-credentials (for example, Administration Skills, Communication Skills and Technology Skills) leads to achieving the AdmiNZ Professional Certificate in Business Administration and will enable an AdmiNZ member to apply for AdmiNZ Provisional Certification.

Achieving six micro-credentials including either Leadership Skills or Leadership (Team Management) Skills, again reflecting the different environment and skills development of the administrative professional, leads to achieving the AdmiNZ Professional Diploma in Business Administration and enables an AdmiNZ member to apply for AdmiNZ Certification.

The AdmiNZ Professional Development Sub-Committee has developed a profession-driven relevant qualification reflecting the skills and knowledge held by administrative professionals around New Zealand.

While our tertiary education system works in Levels 1-10, note that these are educational levels and are different from the Global Skills Matrix (GSM) Levels 1-5. However, our micro-credentials are developed with the GSM as a focus. Our AdmiNZ Professional Certificate and Diploma, and the skills and knowledge required to achieve them, all fit within Level 4 of the GSM.

Just as the GSM was written by administrative professionals, for administrative professionals globally, so too are AdmiNZ’s professional qualifications written for administrative professionals, by administrative professionals. All this work has been undertaken voluntarily by our peers for us.

AdmiNZ has taken a significant step towards a formal qualification requirement for administrative professionals. A step towards the work they do being seen as working within a recognised profession.

Eth Lloyd, MNZM, worked as an Assistant for 30 years. She has a passion for the administrative profession and its value. She is a Life Member and past National President of the Association of Administrative Professionals New Zealand Inc (AdmiNZ). In 2018 ... (Read More)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *