Training partner

22 September 2020

With many fraudulent training providers in the market, Gary Fallaize says that employers can put themselves at risk if they rely on the sight of a certificate as proof of knowledge.

ONE OF my many current roles with RRC is monitoring the global market for the promotion of HSE qualification courses. Not on the face of it a difficult task, a few proven searches on Google and various social media platforms provides me with the needed information on many global training providers. What is evident is for the uninitiated, it is a bit of a minefield with fraudsters mixing in quite happily with the legitimate and some of the legitimate marketing like fraudsters. This creates a small risk to employers if they just rely merely on the sight of a “certificate” as proof that the candidate has the knowledge they require.

To unpick this we need to look at the whole issue of “certificates”. Having enjoyed over 30 years in the training and education business I go back to a time when the vast majority of people took courses to learn, and the certificate was proof that the learning had taken place. Employers were interested in the knowledge and skills gained and the certificates were proof of this. The world has however changed with the “certificate” and the ease of getting it increasingly the key drivers for some aspiring HSE people, the knowledge and understanding required to achieve it is of less interest. I stress this is a fairly small but growing minority, and not just restricted to those outside the UK. 

This has not been helped by awarding bodies themselves focusing on the “certificate” and assessment methodology, not the learning and more importantly in my view, the quality of the learning.

Ultimately employers want the knowledge and skills but given the myriad of qualifications out there, they rely on the “certificates” as proof of this. Again a few notable exceptions are occasionally reported on LinkedIn where a more thorough test of knowledge at interview exposes the “certificate” does not necessarily guarantee the expected knowledge.

How does this happen? The most obvious answer being the rapidly growing market in “fake” or “novelty” certificates. These are prevalent all over social media. Simple searches for the more popular awarding bodies inevitably return an advert offering a range of popular certificates “without exams” and the real clue as to a potential fraudster is a WhatsApp contact only. These get reported, but platforms like Facebook are not interested so they remain in place gathering likes and engagement, leading no doubt to people buying a nice shiny certificate they can use to apply for their next job. These are quite easy to check, all awarding bodies will provide a verification service and employers need to be aware and start using these.

We then have the services that “help” with coursework assignments. These range from “examples” being sold on social media and eBay to more exclusive “writing” services. This type of “cheat” is often found through awarding bodies using plagiarism software and/or verification interviews. However, no system is foolproof so some have succeeded and others will continue to do so.

The above examples are reasonably straightforward - cheating the recipient of the certificate and being complicit in the attempt to defraud their employers. Moving onto the more challenging world of training providers things are less clear cut as to who the guilty party is.

Not relevant to the key thrust of this piece but for completeness we have the bogus training providers, unusual in the UK but increasingly prevalent in some countries. These defraud aspiring learners and create a general air of distrust of all training providers. It is often difficult to spot as their marketing replicates that of legitimate providers, sometimes even claiming to be affiliated to a legitimate provider. The general giveaway is the sole WhatsApp contact. Checking with awarding bodies directly is the best way to confirm whether a provider is legitimate.

We then come on to my industry where I am delighted to compete with many many high quality reputable training providers, who I have a lot of respect for. However, as in all industries there is a minority of questionable players. Problems arise when the emphasis of the training is on exam spotting/ teaching to the exam. Here the knowledge is focused on how to pass the assessment with little attempt to cover the depth and breadth of the syllabus. This can go further into coaching in completing the assessment but the result is the lack of knowledge and understanding of the subject matter you would expect from a “certificate” holder. Awarding bodies do try to police this but not well enough given the anecdotal evidence that circulates.  

From the employers’ point of view, employing somebody in an HSE role without the required knowledge is a risky business. Safety and Environmental mishaps can be expensive and damaging to reputations, so some due diligence is advisable to make sure you get the right person. Question candidates face to face on some key HSE principles, and if there is any doubt, check they trained with a legitimate provider and that their certificate is genuine (and the name on it matches their passport). Meanwhile we the training providers along with awarding bodies will continue to do our best to minimise the risk of dodgy “certificates”.

Gary Fallaize is managing director at RRC. For more information, visit,