ACHRNEWS

NATE Shooting for 150,000 Certified Techs

July 31, 2006
Because 2010 will be here sooner than one would like to think, officials at North American Technician Excellence (NATE) have recently revved up their plan to meet the independent certification body's ultimate goal of having 150,000 certified techs by the end of 2010.

"We will use a variety of tactics in order to get there," commented Carl Smith, director of marketing and public relations for NATE. "You are going to hear a lot about NATE in the months and years ahead."

Be prepared.

VISION 2010 UP AND RUNNING

In truth, the 5-year Vision 2010 began last year with the introduction of written and audio public service announcements (PSAs). According to Smith, last year's program reached over 110 million readers and 140 million listeners. With that success, NATE has twelve 30-second audio spots and six print PSAs in the works for 2006.

It is sponsoring an interstitial in the "Learning About ..." series this fall on PBS, designed to direct consumers to the organization's Website, particularly its "Consumer-Contractor Connection" area. Actor Michael Douglas is host of the "Learning About..." series. In one segment, consumers will learn something about heating and cooling.

NATE will also release a 2-minute TV piece to 40 Home and Garden TV (HGTV) markets. This interstitial footage and interviews uses homeowners and technicians. Plus, the owner of Bay Area Air Conditioning in Crystal River, Fla., Dave Hutchins, will be included in the creation of the short segment, along with a corporate video. In fact, NATE plans to place the same footage on airports' and hospitals' TV channels this fall.

"The total effect will be to put the NATE message in front of television viewers, meaning even more of them will begin asking contractors if they have NATE-certified technicians," said Smith, before providing a suggestion to contractors. "Get those techs certified in preparation for the telephone calls."

Officials at North American Technician Excellence (NATE) are looking to have 150,000 certified techs by the end of 2010.

COMMUNICATIONS AND UTILITIES

To help market to the public, NATE recently put together its first Home Comfort News, a contractor-to-consumer bimonthly newsletter that can be customized. It is designed to provide contractors with NATE-certified techs a personalized mailer to customers. The bimonthly newsletter contains, among other items, a consumer interest article, as well as areas that a contractor can customize to highlight his/her product specials, coupons, service agreements, etc. When printed, the newsletter covers both sides of a sheet and folds into a self-mailer so it can be mailed to current and prospective customers.

"It is a tool a contracting business can use to better communicate with customers and puts an advertising message or specials right in a customer's hands," said Smith. "Again, the idea is to be in front of the public."

At the same time, NATE plans to focus a lot of its attention on utilities. In the past, consumers have gone to utilities for contractor referrals. By spreading the word regarding NATE certification to utilities, NATE and Smith believe only good can come out of such partnering.

For instance, NATE partners with the Cool Smart initiative in Massachusetts. Cool Smart is a residential central air conditioning rebate program that promotes best installation practices, education, and training for HVAC technicians and contractors. In its promotional material to the public, it states "if your contractor employs technicians certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE), you know they've proven knowledge about how to size and install your system."

"Again, the idea is to keep in front of the public," said Smith.

LEGISLATIVE, MANUFACTURERS' INPUT

Other ways NATE is trying to get noticed include:

  • Legislation: Although NATE cannot directly lobby, it is providing tools for local, regional, and statewide groups to use. NATE has created model legislation that any partner group can use to, as Smith put it, "accelerate their learning curve."

    Smith noted that many of the ideas are from the legislation that made Terre Haute, Ind., the first city in the United States to require contractors to have NATE-certified techs as a condition of contractor licensing if they wish to operate within the Terre Haute city limits.

    "At national conferences late this summer and fall, the NATE model will be presented," said Smith. "Seventeen states do not have contractor licensing. Several cities and states are working on initiatives to incorporate NATE certification as a component of contractor licensing."

    According to Smith, this will work "hand-in-glove" with utility initiatives involving NATE.

    "These emphasize that no matter how well designed a heating or cooling unit may be, if it is improperly sized to the structure, and if it is not properly installed and serviced, it will waste energy and the home or the business owner will not get the comfort he should get while still paying higher utility bills.

    "The interesting thing about the whole situation is even though it is the consumer who buys the unit, chooses the contractor who installs it, and determines how much or little it is used, it is the utility which generally bears the brunt of consumer complaints about high utility bills."

  • Manufacturers: HVACR manufacturers are pushing to get NATE logos placed in their trade print ads. Some have placed the NATE logo in their consumer literature, and some have a NATE logo in their consumer ads.

    NATE is endorsed by the Department of Energy. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star program refers consumers to contractors who have NATE-certified technicians in the EPA's "Guide To Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling" consumer brochure.

    "Consumers want certified technicians to work on their home comfort system," said Smith. "In the most recent American Home Comfort Study, 88 percent of them said having a certified technician install and/or service their home comfort system was very important."

    In the end, NATE will continue to drum up more interest, keeping its eye on its 2010 goal.

    "Vision 2010 is the roadmap NATE will use to get there," promised Smith. "It's going to be an interesting ride."

    Publication date: 07/31/2006