In a recent press conference, NATE Chief Operating Officer (COO) John Lanier explained how 2014 is bringing some exciting changes to the NATE organization and the industry. He announced major changes to its certification program for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR ) technicians. The organization is adding new benefits, including an online Career Center for NATE-certified technicians, revising its certification period and certification maintenance requirements, and will soon introduce new and updated certification exams.

"Our focus is to become even more customer-focused by becoming more user-friendly and providing more meaningful value adds for the men and women who are out in the field doing installations and service every day," he said.

“We understand that with increasing demand on technicians’ personal and professional time, we must adapt in order to continue to be of value to HVACR technicians and the industry. To that end, we reviewed our policies, asked technicians and industry stakeholders what we can do to make NATE better, and made changes to the certification duration, continuing education hours (CEH) requirements, and costs, based on that feedback. We believe these changes will increase the value of NATE certification and support technicians throughout their careers in the HVACR industry,”  Lanier, adds.

Regarding goals for the organization, Lanier says ultimately, the organization wants to not only certify technicians, but also have them maintain those certifications. He explains this means they have to work to convince technicians that it's in their best interest to re-certify. Part of that is to continue working to raise homeowner awareness, though he adds that this is an expensive and difficult thing for a non-profit organization like NATE to do.

Lanier commented that NATE plans to revisit a 2006 study that put a dollar value on NATE certification and potentially they will work on a new study that shows technicians, owners, and potential customers the value for having technicians certified.

"A great number of HVAC contractors inherently know how valuable and important NATE certification is to their organizations, but we want to bring that message to even more contrators," he says.

Reaching the 240,000
According to Lanier, the Department of Labor has estimated there to be approximately 300,000 HVAC technicians in the U.S.. He thinks that number is rather high, by more than 50,000.

"When we drilled down on that number, we believe there are somewhere around 240,000 technicians in the ¨S that actually work for a contractor who has at least five technicians working for him or her. We believe that's our more reachable market: the guy out there on his own is harder to reach. If we can reach them, they're so busy that they mnay not be as focused on what we're all about.

"So we've looked at our available market as being those 240,000 technicians who work for fairly good-sized contractors," Lanier says. "We have about 13.5% of that number across the U.S. Certainly, we want to grow that number, and we thing the quickest and easiest way to grow it is to encourage technicians to maintain their certifications."

You can see the complete program changes and new offerings that will be rolled out thoughout 2014 on the organization's website.

These program changes outline the NEW NATE as follows:

N is for Necessary

  • A new NATE Career Center to match NATE-certified technicians to employers in industry who value NATE certification
  • Serving as a sustaining member of the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation, recently formed to lead an industry effort to develop and promote educational projects, programs and partnerships to attract committed and skilled employees to a career in HVACR.

A is for Added-value

  • Administering the NATE Industry Competency Exam for entry-level technicians with one year or less of professional experience
  • Developing stronger ties with career and technical schools, distributors, and contractors to help direct technicians to appropriate continuing education when needed.
  • Plans to enhance websites features to serve as HVACR industry information resources with blogs, community discussions, news feeds, and greater mobile capabilities.

T is for Timely

Plans to update NATE exams and introducing new exams, including:

  • Revised NATE Core examination, combining previously individual Core Service and Core Installation exams into a single 75-question exam
  • Updated Service and Installation exams for the Air Conditioning, Air Distribution, Heat Pump, Gas Heating, and Oil Furnace specialties
  • English and Spanish versions of the NATE Core exam, Air Conditioning, Heat Pump, and Gas Heating Service specialty exams
  • A credentialing opportunity with US Army for their soldiers training in the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 91C, which includes air-conditioning maintenance and repair as many of our country’s service men and women return home from deployment this year

E is for Earned

  • Certification period changed from five to two years
  • Certification maintained with proof of 16 hours of specialty-related continuing education (CEHs) within the two-year period (reduced from 60 hours for 5 years)
  • Certification maintenance application cost reduced from $95 to only $25 per first certification; $5 for each additional certifications
  • Extended the grace period available after the certification maintenance date has passed for technicians from 60 days to 120 days to allow additional time for technicians to send in documentation regarding CEHs earned.

For more information, visit www.natex.org/nate-news/changes-certificationrecertification-program.

North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is headquartered in Arlington, Va. It was founded in 1997 as the nation’s largest industry-endorsed, non-profit certification organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians. Candidates can earn installation and/or service certification in specialty areas including air-conditioning, air distribution, heat pumps, gas heating, oil heating, hydronic gas, hydronic oil, and commercial, light commercial refrigeration and senior efficiency analyst. NATE also offers the International Ground Source Heat Pump test. For more information about NATE, visit www.natex.org.