In an effort to increase the number of technicians that get certified and more importantly recertified, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) has made changes to its certification program.

The certification period has been changed from five years to two. In addition, certification can be maintained with proof of 16 hours of specialty-related continuing education within a two-year period. Previously, it was required to be 60 hours over a five year period so it is dropped by an average of four hours a year.

“The central theme is trying to be more relevant and customer focused for the technicians out there,” said John Lanier, NATE’s chief operating officer. “We have done a lot of survey work and understand a lot of the barriers to why technicians do not maintain their certification with us.”

The barriers the research showed was both time and cost. To address the cost aspect, certification maintenance application costs have been reduced from $95 to $25 per first certification with $5 for each additional certification. NATE has also 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.

“We are trying to create a mind shift from what some perceived as an arduous task of recertifying credentials to a new mindset of just a few things they need to do to maintain the credentials,” Lanier said.

While the Department of Labor estimates there are over 300,000 HVAC technicians in the United States, NATE has drilled down and estimates there are about 240,000 technicians that work for a contractor that has a company with at least five technicians. Of that market, NATE has 13.5 percent penetration.

“We certainly want to grow that. The quickest and easiest way to grow that is to encourage techs to maintain certification. We have a pretty big number come in and pass our test every year but unfortunately a fairly big number leave every year too. We want to address that issue and that is the reason for a lot of the changes we are making,” Lanier said.

In order to increase their numbers, NATE is continuing to attempt to raise consumer awareness about the organization.

“Certainly over time more and more homeowners become aware of our certification,” Lanier said. “We are exploring the possibility of doing PSAs in selective states. There are challenges for any organization our size and a nonprofit in that we don’t have an enormous marketing budget. It is difficult for us to do a big consumer outreach campaign. That said we have discussed target markets in selective states where we can see if we can gain some traction and raise consumer awareness.”

Publication date: 1/6/2014

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!