What is most counterproductive for our industry? I’ve spent a considerable amount of time researching an adversarial relationship that exists between two of our industry’s certification programs. North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and HVAC Excellence haven’t managed to get along with each other since the inception of NATE in 1997.

The two should be working together. You’re thinking that’s about as likely as Coke and Pepsi magically agreeing on one recipe for cola drinks? Here’s some thoughts as to why the industry should seek to bring the two certification programs closer together.

After seeing some disparaging advertising from the ESCO Institute that promoted HVAC Excellence, with an obvious negative inference toward NATE, and with some questionable “butt-crack” humor, I prepared a scathing editorial. “There is no room for any group that perpetuates old, negative myths that drag down the image of HVAC contractors,” I reasoned.

Before going to print I realized that I had an obvious bias that favored NATE. This magazine’s former publisher, Jeff Forker, assisted in the formation of that organization.

However, was I being fair in my assessment of a questionable advertising campaign, or was I just angry because of the obvious slam at the NATE program?

I spoke to Rex Boynton, NATE president, Jerry Weiss, CEO of ESCO Institute, and William Allred, executive director of HVAC Excellence. All three took a professional approach regarding their competitor, and none spoke disparagingly of the other.

The long story made short is that HVAC Excellence has softened its advertising approach. The “Coke-Pepsi” style war between certification programs has somewhat subsided; albeit perhaps only in print. In the interest of accurate disclosure, it must be stated that NATE never engaged in any derisive advertising. I commend NATE for its restraint.

Let’s Cut To The Chase

NATE was founded on the principle that one technician certification program would be in the best interest of the industry. Many manufacturers and associations have supported this initiative.

However, before there was NATE, HVAC Excellence wanted to do the same thing ¯ become the single resource for certification in the industry. HVAC Excellence has strong backing from educational institutions.

Both certification organizations have strong support and will continue to grow and gain acceptance in the industry.

Herein lies the problem.

A confusing message is being sent to potential test-takers everywhere. In addition, negative competition could bring into question the validity of the tests themselves. Could either or both programs’ testing criteria be improved upon? Yes. Could a consistency of testing benefit the industry? Absolutely. Will there ever be only one industry certification program? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, our industry would be better served if the leadership of the two groups sat down over a cup of coffee. Perhaps at HVAC Comfortech in Dallas. I’ll even buy.

Mike Murphy, editor-in-chief, at mmurphy@penton.com or call 216/931-9320.