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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

National Standard Academic Challenge


Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has always been an international leader organization in the arena of Quality.  Created in 1919 it was focused on ensuring the quality of bridge construction for the railroad.  As mentioned here before, early (Z299) documents from the CSA were used as the seed documents for the creation of ISO 9000.  CSA has active in the environmental industry, nuclear industry and the nanotechnology industry.  So it should not be a surprise to anyone that they would be always be so very well positioned to take the step forward in innovation and engagement.
Look across the standards world and you will see a lot of grey hair.  Granted that interest in standards development is a pre-occupation that people grow into; first you need to be engaged in an occupation or profession or field of activity long enough to know that there are such things as good practices and not-so-good practices, and the source of good practices can usually be found through reading and understanding consensus based standards.  In my experience that usually takes 5 to 10 years (maybe more – maybe less) to reach that level of insight.  But the experience is also that once in the standards enthusiasts get energized, eventually they become the standards fogies.  I would guess the mean age in the standard arena is well above 60, which means for every person age 50 there is one at age 70, and for every person age 40 there are two near 74.   As one person said, in a lot of committees it is not necessary to set 6 or 8 year term limits on chairs because lots of us won’t make it anyways.
So the answer is to start younger.  

There are all sorts of younger people who would be appropriate to engage in standards awareness and standards development.  Standards awareness should be a component of every training program in electrical, mechanical, healthcare trades and professions.  Every student should be able to know the difference between an effective standard and an ineffective one.  Every student should know which organization in their region or country is engaged in consensus based objective relevant standards.  Every student should understand how standards are the basis for consistent quality practice.  And in time once they have got their hands and head dirty in their field of interest, those folks who want to, should have the opportunity to get engaged in creation of the next generation of documents.  These are the kids who will become our next group of standards developers and quality creators.
So the CSA started with a new pilot “National Academic Challenge” this year associated with its Annual General Meeting with some young undergraduates from an Ontario university.  The presentations were appropriately enthusiastic and well done.  The subjected were perhaps young and naïve, but that’s OK. The pilot was a great success and good for the students and good for a first shot by the organization.  The students loved it and the members loved it.  The exercise was clearly a winner and well worth repeating.  

It pointed out that as a way to recruit some young blood into CSA, this model has some legs.  The yield to CSA will likely be stronger when the challenge involves participants with a little more age and experience, and a more of a focus on a career choice, but that will evolve over time.
On another level it shows that Canada is well positioned to move forward on the world stage through hosting a World Standards Cooperation Academic Day.  We have the organizations, the academics and students at a wide variety of levels.  
There is every reason for Canada to play on the world stage.

More to come. 

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