At HVAC Comfortech 2010, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) recognized six "Top Techs" who hold multiple NATE certifications. This month, ContractingBusiness.com introduces Jack Bartell, director of service and training, Virginia Air. Bartell is also the 2010 recipient of the NATE Golden Toolbox Award for a lifetime of service to the HVAC industry.

Jack Bartell has a unique perspective on the importance of NATE certification.

Bartell joined the HVAC industry early in life, at age 13 working in the family HVAC business, John Bartell & Sons, South Brunswick, NJ.

Over the years, he served as a service and installation technician, then got "out of the truck" and worked with York International for 16 years in several roles, including manager of training. For the past five years he has served the industry as director of service and training, Virginia Air, a distributor of York, ClimateMaster, Mitsubishi, and Honeywell equipment with 15 locations in five states.

Bartell's association with NATE began when he was at York, and eventually led to him serving on the NATE technical committee that helps develop and review the test materials to ensure they’re meaningful and accurate for today's technicians.

"At York, we believed that NATE was going to be a very positive force in the industry, and so we wanted to become involved," Bartell says. "All of us in the training and service group took the exams, and became NATE-certified in a variety of specialties."

Today, Bartell holds five NATE certifications: heat pump, air distribution, gas furnaces, oil furnaces, and air conditioning.

"One thing I always try to convey to technicians is that NATE is a constantly evolving process," Bartell says. "The exam questions are reviewed on a regular basis, and there's a lot of work that goes into it every year to make sure we're providing technicians with a quality exam."

Bartell notes that one of the best things about being a technician in the HVAC industry is that you’ll always be in demand, and able to support yourself and your family.

"Everyone in the country will use the services of an air conditioning technician at some point," he says. "It's a job that provides an opportunity to earn a good salary, and studies have shown that NATE technicians have better earning potential than their counterparts who aren't NATE certified."

Beyond personal and professional pride and greater earning potential, there's another reason Bartell recommends that HVAC technicians become NATE-certified: it makes his job easier.

"For many years, I took calls from the field for York International, and today, as a director of service and training at a distributor, we can clearly see a delineation between NATE techs and other techs," Bartell says. "When certified techs call, they call with good questions. They've already done due diligence and tried to solve the problem on their own, and they typically have better information for me to help support them. That makes my job — and theirs — much easier."