Peter Schwarz, the new president/CEO of North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is thinking big, as he settles in to his post as leader of the technician certification organization.

In the keynote address to the annual meeting of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) in Tucson, AZ, Schwartz said NATE will engage in a series of marketing initiatives to expand awareness and importance of HVACR technician certification across the U.S. He also pledged to maintain uncompromising work and ethical standards, and to give his full commitment to NATE's purpose, core values, and goals.

"Every person on a team is critical to its success. We'll work to facilitate an environment and culture that breeds opportunities for everyone to evolve. We'll help develop more competent, proactive professionals," Schwartz said.

Schwartz wants to make NATE "easier to do business with," by improving upon administrative tools and resources, and by finding ways to standardize and simplify NATE certification exams. Those will include increased online testing capabilities and increased use of the Intenet to help technicians prepare for and acquire certification and recertification.

"We want NATE to be more customer driven, with high touch, personalized service," Schwartz said. "We want to become a safe harbor for our certification candidates, and support technicians in their professional development, by making certification and recertification less intimidating and more user friendly."

The HVACR industry faces a severe shortage of qualified technicians, which Schwartz says has placed NATE at a crossroads in its evolution. He said the organization has done an exemplary job of solidifying its base of NATE-certified technicians, with solid buy-in at all levels. Now, however, with an increased emphasis in the industry on sustainability and energy conservation, he said NATE is in a unique position to assume a standard-setting role.

"We're going to explore more print, electronic, and broadcast media campaigns, to highlight our media message," Schwartz said. "The NATE consumer website needs to be a destination site related to HVAC system energy efficiency, and should highlight NATE-certified installers as the best of the breed in the marketplace."

Schwartz said he wants to leverage the collective efforts of a united HVACR industry. HVACR contractors need to know the financial benefits of investing in NATE certification, he said.

"Technicians need to see NATE certification as a rung on the ladder to financial success," he said. In an interview with ContractingBusiness.com, Schwartz said he foresees an increase in the overall number of new HVACR technicians.

"It's going to happen as a natural progression, with the increasing cost of tradtional university education, and the cost benefit of alternatives to that, such as technical schools," Schwartz said.

"The industry needs to promote itself on a more concerted basis to the youth of America, to provide them with the opportunity to investigate and evaluate the benefits and opportunities that exist for them in the HVACR industry. It's a great way to make a living."