Hands-on Tech Certification Now in Place

May 15, 2006
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Facilitators John Hohman (left) and Randy Petit (right) conduct class for interested teachers at Koch Air. Training was held to go through procedures and implementation of hands-on testing.
There is a new technician certification program in town. And, HVAC Excellence believes its Master Specialist program will produce even better, all-around techs.

The reason? In order to earn this title, an applicant has to pass a hands-on test, in addition to the written test also required by the training certification group.

Determining a technician's competency requires more than a score on a written exam, said Howard Weiss, marketing director for HVAC Excellence.

Weiss said its new program mirrors driver training/testing procedures. As he noted, new drivers take a written exam demonstrating they know the rules of the road, but "no one would want them behind the wheel of a vehicle based solely on a written test."

"The Master Specialist program requires a technician to demonstrate retained knowledge and prove that they can apply that knowledge," said Weiss.

QUALIFICATIONS

In the eyes of Weiss and HVAC Excellence, it's all about competence. "How many times has the average consumer heard stories and watched television exposés about unscrupulous repair people who unnecessarily replace parts or cannot seem to find or fix the problem the first time?" asked Weiss. "The unnecessary replacement of parts is less related to being unscrupulous or padding a bill than it is to incompetence."

By having hands-on testing, this differentiates a technician, said Weiss. At the same time, it will allow HVAC Excellence to analyze current deficiencies in the technical workforce, on a regional basis, and use that information to provide educational programs "with the data necessary to develop ongoing training for field technicians."

To qualify for the title, a tech must have a minimum of three years of verifiable field experience and achieve a passing score on the related HVAC Excellence written professional-level technician certification. HVAC Excellence said it has reviewed the competencies covered by Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA Star program) and has determined that persons who have achieved these related certifications are also eligible to take the Master Specialist hands-on performance test.

HVAC Excellence said it has offered to review the competencies of written certifications issued by other organizations, as well.

Areas of certification include residential air conditioning, gas heat, oil heat, heat pumps, light commercial air conditioning, light commercial refrigeration, low-pressure radiant heat, and the area of combustion analysis.

At the recent American Technical Education Association Conference in Louisville, 14 instructors were certified as “Professional Observers” in HVAC Excellence’s new Master Specialist technician certification program. Pictured are (left to right) Steve Allen, Randy Petit, Kevin Livingston, Rick Coverston, Desi Riggs, William Matthews, Terrell Murphy, Lem Palmer, Ricky Hall, Mike Bartz, Bill Strachan, Robert Fletcher, Jim Wathen, John Hohman, Jim Hyde, Steve Hern, and Ronnie Casteel.

TRAINERS READY

To get this program started, HVAC Excellence had to nail down hands-on testing sites, as well as instructors who could grade the technicians' procedures. Working with more than 900 educational facilities throughout North America, HVAC Excellence said it was able to simplify the process of identifying educators and facilities where the educator had the right credentials and the program had the necessary equipment.

The first group of educators were trained in March. The training was conducted during the American Technical Education Association Conference in Louisville, Ky. Koch Air, a local Carrier distributor, hosted the hands-on portion.

"The 14 instructors who were certified as ‘Professional Observers' should be commended for their unselfish dedication and hard work to improve the quality of our industry," said Weiss. "Each instructor paid his own way to attend this workshop."

The test administrator is provided with specific criteria to observe. Each area of certification has specific tasks, with time allotments per task. According to HVAC Excellence, the typical hands-on certification test takes four to six hours to complete.

"The proctor is a certified professional observer who records the actions of the test taker and submits those observations to HVAC Excellence for grading," explained Weiss.

The first group of Master Specialist certified professional observers are:

  • Mike Bartz, Advanced Technology Institute, Virginia Beach, Va.;

  • Ronnie Casteel, Tennessee Technology Center, Crossville, Tenn.;

  • Robert Fletcher, Inttelitec College, Colorado Springs, Colo.;

  • Rick Coverston, Louisiana Technical College, Shreveport, La.;

  • Ricky Hall and Steve Hern, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville, Ky.;

  • Kevin Livingston, Heart of Georgia Technical College, Dublin, Ga.;

  • Bill Strachan, Clovis Community College, Clovis, N.M.;

  • Jim Hyde, Tennessee Technology Center, Nashville, Tenn.;

  • William Mathews, Linn State Technical College, Linn, Mo.;

  • Terrell Murphy and Lemuel Palmer, Bowling Green Technical College, Bowling Green, Ky.;

  • Desi Rigg, Scott Community College, Bettendorf, Iowa; and

  • Steve Allen, UA Great Lakes Regional Training Center, Ann Arbor, Mich.

    "HVAC Excellence has received a great number of inquiries by trainers interested in administering the Master Specialist program," said Weiss. "Qualified trainers and test sites will be added as the program progresses."

    In order to accommodate its 350,000 members, Weiss said the UA (United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada) will be adding additional Master Specialist test administrators to its roster in the near future, too.

    TESTING AVAILABLE NOW

    With the first group of test observers approved, testing of field technicians has begun, said Weiss. He said a hands-on test can be scheduled by contacting a Master Specialist testing center and arranging a mutually agreeable time for testing.

    The testing fee, which includes the test administrator's time, the use of the laboratory and equipment, the expendable supplies, liability insurance, and grading is normally $225. During the pilot phase of the program, Weiss said the total testing fee is $180.

    Contact one of the above schools or contact HVAC Excellence (800-394-5268; www hvacexcellence.org). Members of the UA should contact their local UA training center for additional information.

    Publication date: 05/15/2006

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