COMS Blog February 2019

Great news about COMS!

The COMS (Certified O&M Specialist) group submission we sent to the USA in November last year has been approved by the ACVREP Board. A total of 134 O&M specialists/GDMIs across Australia and NZ expressed interest in international certification, but we know there are more professionals who missed the first call who still might want to be part of the group submission.

Please forward this email/blog to anyone you know who is a fully qualified O&M specialist, but currently on the fringes of the profession e.g., maternity leave, working in the access industry or NDIS, self-employed, solo roles, education departments, not an OMAA member, etc. We rely on your networks to get the message out there before March 31st.

The Board has given us two important deadlines:

31 March 2019 OMAA needs to update and finalise the list of those who might apply for COMS this year, and submit this list again to ACVREP. After 31 March, the door will close for anyone who has done agency-based training, and it might be tricky in the future for people to apply for COMS who have done a Graduate Diploma in O&M but not an undergraduate degree.

31 December 2019 Applications for COMS need to be completed. This is a multistage process that includes the eligibility application followed by the exam, so it is worth getting underway soon.

Key information and deadlines:

  • If you have not yet put your name on the list for the Group Submission, then make sure you do so in the next six weeks. Going on the list doesn’t mean you must apply for COMS, but it leaves your option open to do so. Simply contact Lil Deverell with your name, phone number, email address, the O&M training program you completed and the year you qualified; lil@deverell.net Please include all 5 pieces of information in your first email so that Lil doesn’t have to chase you up for details!
  • Be aware that O&M Specialists who have done agency-based training can join this group submission up until 31 March.
  • COMS will be mandatory for O&M supervisors (current supervisors as well as potential supervisors) because future graduates will need to have their internships supervised by a COMS for the students to be eligible to apply for COMS.
  • O&M Specialists who are already on the submission list will have until 31 December 2019 to apply for COMS and complete their online exam (there is an exam centre in every capital city). If you are already on the list you can begin your eligibility application as soon you receive your OMAA email and Core Domain Checklist from Lil.

Application process

First of all, set up your account with ACVREP https://www.acvrep.org/certifications/coms then download and read the COMS Handbook. There are some confusing sections in the Handbook to do with eligibility pathways, but the OMAA has already sorted out these details directly with ACVREP. All those who have completed one of the 21 comprehensive O&M training programs in Australia or New Zealand need to apply under Category 2 Path B. If you qualified elsewhere (e.g., USA, UK, Brazil) or did more unorthodox training, then the OMAA will advise you directly about your best application pathway.

Before submitting your eligibility application online, you will need to gather four pieces of evidence. The first two relate to you having done a comprehensive O&M qualification covering the full O&M body of knowledge. The second two show that you can put O&M theory into practice in the workplace:

  1. A transcript (from your university/RTO) or a letter of satisfactory completion (on letterhead, from your Agency-based program) showing you have satisfactorily completed your O&M qualification. Do not post the original document. Scan or photograph the document and upload it electronically with your online application, then post a certified copy of the original to ACVREP – they need the certified hard-copy in case they get audited. In Australia you can get a photocopy of your original document certified by an authorised person such as a JP, pharmacist, police officer, lawyer, doctor, dentist, OT, physio, chiropractor, vet, chartered accountant, bank officer, army officer, postal officer, school teacher, etc. (see https://www.education.gov.au/guidelines-certification-documents ). In NZ you need to apply online (see https://www.govt.nz/browse/passports-citizenship-and-identity/proving-and-protecting-your-identity/use-your-nz-documents-overseas#how-you-apply ). If you don’t have this evidence of your qualification on hand, you can request a transcript from your university, or a letter of completion from the Agency that trained you (please discuss with Lil if this is a problem). Then you can arrange with colleagues to put several peoples’ hard-copy evidence into one envelope to Arizona and save on postage!
  2. A core domain checklist (CDC) showing how your qualification has covered the required O&M content. There is a form for this in Appendix B of the COMS handbook, but it has more columns than we need. Rather than everyone doing this individually, the OMAA has created a generic checklist for each of the courses that had 3+ graduates’ names in the original group submission. OMAA will then work with individuals/pairs to customise their CDC as needed. Having the core domain checklist on OMAA letterhead, signed, will help to smooth the application process for Australian/New Zealand applicants. When Lil emails you the generic CDC for your O&M course, you’ll need to check that the unit codes on the CDC match those on your transcript. Please let Lil know if you need to tweak it and get it re-signed, because others in your graduate year will likewise be affected. The unit codes have changed a little over time with some of the longer running programs (e.g., Renwick). If need be, we can do a different CDC for every graduate year in every course, but Lil will need a transcript showing the unit codes for the relevant year, and a conversation with a graduate from that year to get the details right.
  3. A signed form on letterhead from your current/previous employer/s stating that you have done 3,200 hours client work – that’s 3 years full-time equivalent, and can include internships, placements, etc. This is in lieu of doing a 350 hour COMS-supervised internship. ‘Most recent’ just means the last time you carried a client caseload (which might have been ten years ago in a long O&M career where you are now in a management role). If your 3,200 hours was completed between several employers, then you will need to request several forms from your different employers as evidence. Copy and paste the form from Appendix C of the COMS Handbook onto the relevant agency letterhead and amend the text so it represents your hours of experience, then ask your employer/s to sign for you. Contact Lil directly or attend a Zoom information session if you have any queries about this piece of evidence.
  4. A strong letter of recommendation on agency letterhead from your current/most recent supervisor stating that you are a competent professional who implements the full O&M body of knowledge in the workplace – see the COMS Handbook for the 13 domains of O&M knowledge. Your supervisor might have to write a lot of these letters this year, so we suggest you be kind and offer to draft the letter for him/her, then he/she can finalise the draft and sign it. This is a good way for you to begin to review the O&M body of knowledge (which is the basis of the COMS exam), as well as reinforcing how capable you are and including some lovely specifics in the letter about your excellent skills :)

Once your eligibility is reviewed and approved by ACVREP, they will notify you that you can take the COMS exam. You can schedule to take the exam at a convenient time at an exam centre in your nearest capital city – ACVREP will provide the details.

Support provided:

The OMAA Professional Standards Committee will work directly with you if you are on the COMS list to ensure you have the necessary evidence of your COMS eligibility. Those already on the list can expect an email from Lil in early March with the relevant core domain checklist. We will need to collaborate with each graduate group from each of the 21 different training courses to get the CDC accurate for everyone, so there will be some graduate-group emails.

If you are thinking of applying for COMS but are concerned about finances, it is a good idea to at least get your name on the list before 31 March, and work out the financial details later. This leaves the door open for you.

If you are anxious about taking the exam, then you’re not alone – everyone feels that way! Rest assured that it’s an interesting multiple choice exam that will test your applied O&M knowledge gained on the job, not just theory/dry facts. You can work with a study-buddy, join an exam preparation group, or log into the COMS Q&A Zoom sessions. There are also study resources available on the ACVREP website.

If you have any questions, you can contact Lil individually or organise a Zoom information session for your team. The OMAA will also host some general Q&A sessions this year to support COMS applicants, starting with:

Tuesday 5 March @ 1pm Melbourne time https://swinburne.zoom.us/j/532838663

Monday 18 March @ 4pm Melbourne time https://swinburne.zoom.us/j/390973992

Friday 29 March @ 3pm Melbourne time  https://swinburne.zoom.us/j/927021965

The OMAA is looking forward to an exciting year! This COMS commitment will shift the status of the O&M industry in Australia and New Zealand and equip us to move forward as a united, accountable body of registered professionals with transparent standards.

Lil Deverell

on behalf of the OMAA Professional Standards Committee

lil@deverell.net Mob: 0418 370 312