What are you actively doing to support contractor certifications?

Michael Albertson: More so than many other segments of HVAC, training is critical to the success of the geothermal industry — and WaterFurnace takes it very seriously. With adoption levels growing every year, we absolutely must prepare contractors to properly design and install geothermal systems. Each bad installation gives the entire industry a black eye because people tend to blame the technology when it’s often problems with installation. The good news is that improper installations are avoidable through training and support.

Every one of our dealers receives an extremely thorough education from some of the best trainers in the industry. Our classes qualify contractors for International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) Accredited Installer status and are also approved for North American Technician Excellence (NATE) continuing education credits.

After training, we support our dealers with 24/7 access to tech support from staff here at the factory. Problems don’t always happen during business hours so we make sure help is available for whenever they do, and I can tell you our customers appreciate it.

Gary Bedard: Certifications deliver credible third party confirmation of an individual’s mastery of HVAC skills.  As a board member of NATE, I am personally a big supporter of the efforts to enhance the professionalism of our industry through certifications.  We believe that the best way we can support this is by making top-notch training available to our contractor customers, and investing in our training capabilities. Lennox offers a variety of technical classes from local, product specific classes to national or resident classes designed to take a novice and turn them into a NATE qualified technician. Our customers consistently tell us that having a pathway for non-industry people to become qualified technicians is very important.  The downside is that it’s been pretty expensive.  But, technology is changing this as well.

In January of this year, Lennox introduced a brand-new Learning Management System that allows our customers and their employees to access a broad library of on-line course work through our on-line DaveNet contractor portal. We’ve also built specific learning paths that guide people to take certain courses in order. The best thing about this system is that it allows the owners of the company to track which courses the employees have taken. And, we’re working with NATE to see if we can automatically upload these courses to register the continuing education credits. This can fill a major gap that both owners and technicians find with the NATE recertification process. Using our Learning Management System, our HVAC Learning Solutions team has just begun an on-line version of their well-regarded “BuildATech” program which we’re calling “Virtual BuildATech.” This allows contractors to take a new employee and bring them from zero to NATE-certified over a four to six month period with very little time away from the contractor’s business. 

Gary Clark: Our organization fully supports contractor certification programs such as NATE and others. Our CEO is a member of the board of NATE. We offer training and testing at many of our company-operated and independent distributor locations. Further, many of our distributors have programs allowing a dealer to receive reimbursement for training classes and testing.  We promote our support of certification programs on many marketing materials including print and electronic platforms.

Brian Cobble: Involvement with the NATE program is perhaps the most significant approach to encouraging and supporting contractor certification and professionalization in HVAC contracting. There may also be significant temptation to attempt to erect greater “barriers-to-entry” within the industry through legislative “certification,” but such an approach will likely drive up costs to consumers and reduce consumer choice, as competition is reduced due to higher costs of compliance to the smaller business people. This may or may not represent a favorable outcome for the industry.  Voluntary certification, coupled with effective marketing to target markets, perhaps being the better alternative.

John Galyen: Training and certification are critical industry issues, and we are continually investing in programs ranging from field, classroom, e-learning and self-learning modules. We support NATE certification.

Our Motion Control University offers International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) certification and continuing education credits. We also conduct a cross-country roadshow that offers one-day technical training seminars for contractors.

David Kesterton: NATE certification is very good for our industry and helps set a standard in the field the consumer can trust and rely on. I think we all need to be more vocal and talk NATE certification in all of our advertising. The more contractors on board with NATE the better. At Mingledorff’s, we set goals and measure our progress towards technician certifications per year. Our FAD (Factory Authorized Dealer) program plays a big role in building our base of NATE-certified technicians.

Mark Kuntz: We’re huge believers in contractor certification. We built the entire ductless market on the premise that our first step has to be to train contractors. We have five centers around the country with live equipment that operate continuously in the process of training and certifying contractors.  We are complete believers in that as a necessity and continue to invest to make it happen.

David Meyers: Carrier has a number of programs in place that support contractor education and certifications.

Carrier University is a premier learning organization in the HVAC industry, offering comprehensive HVAC training in a wide range of areas including technical skills, sales and marketing, business management, customer service, controls, design and sustainable building solutions. We offer training for architects, building owners, consulting/specifying engineers, contractors, developers, facility managers and HVAC instructors.

Carrier Factory Authorized Dealers must perform to rigorous national standards, consistently and continually, in order to qualify for our factory endorsement. Additionally, they participate in extensive factory training on technical aspects of equipment installation, maintenance and repair. Factory Authorized Dealers send their sales representatives to Carrier University classes, where they learn to efficiently identify and recommend solutions that provide excellent comfort and value specific to a homeowner’s needs, while incorporating products that are energy efficient, reliable, quiet and environmentally sound.

In addition, Carrier Factory Authorized Dealers are required to employ NATE-certified technicians, who have passed a stringent set of core and specialty exams to ensure their technical competency. They also receive ongoing training specific to Carrier technology and products. Factory Authorized Dealers are also certified by the Environmental Protection Agency for proper refrigerant handling.

Chris Peel: Our training teams continue to work alongside NATE to help expand its reach and impact. We allow several Rheem Academy courses to qualify for NATE credit to help promote NATE certification and technical excellence. Plus, Rheem actively participates on the NATE Technical Committee in developing and refining the certification exams.

In addition, we actively promote NATE- certified contractors on our dealer locator through Rheem.com, so we can drive leads to them. NATE certification is also a key criterion to qualify as an Elite Rheem Contractor (Rheem Team). These contractors have access to several resources to help them grow their business, such as ad kits and marketing materials, co-op programs, partnership programs and more.

Ed Purvis: I’ve served on the board of NATE for a number of years, and Emerson has been investing heavily in NATE both financially and in terms of human resources.  I firmly believe technician certification is essential to not only get the number of technicians we need in the future, but also to get the right level of technicians.

The challenge of doing that is having very robust and easy-to-use tools for technicians to get trained, tested, to maintain their certifications, and in the last year or two NATE has made great strides in making the whole certification process more customer-friendly. As I look over the next four or five years, we are going to continue to invest in NATE. The number of certified contractors has grown over the past several years — and we think will continue to grow  — and that’s going to be a key part of having the portfolio of contractors we need to drive new products and achieve our goals of bringing new technologies to the marketplace.

Mark Wagner: Trane continues to work closely with our residential HVAC dealers to provide technical hands on training and support utilizing all applicable national and local codes and certifications.

Scott Weaver: On the HVAC side we are proponents of NATE certification. In terms of contractor education, we did about 90 contracting seminars in-house at APR Supply for the contractors last year. We offer continuous training and continuing education.