In an effort to increase the number of certified HVAC technicians and, perhaps more importantly, recertify techs, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) has updated its certification program.
NATE will now certify technicians in two years, a significant reduction from the previous five-year requirement. In addition, certification may now be maintained with proof of 16 hours of specialty-related continuing education within a two-year period. The previous recertification specifications required 60 hours of training over a five-year period. The latest update has dropped such requirements by an average of four hours per year.
Research conducted by NATE officials revealed that time and cost remained the largest obstacle to recertification. “The central theme is trying to be more relevant and customer focused for the technicians out there,” said John Lanier, COO, NATE, during a Jan. 8 press conference. “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.”
To address the cost aspect, initial certification maintenance application costs have been reduced from $95 to $25, with a $5 fee for each additional certification. NATE also extended the grace period available after the technician certification maintenance date has passed from 60 days to 120 days, granting techs additional time to submit documentation of earned continuing education hours (CEHs).
“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.
Lack of Certification
While the Department of Labor estimates there more than over 300,000 HVAC technicians in the U.S., NATE estimates there are about 240,000 technicians working for contractors with at least five technicians on staff. NATE estimates it has 13.5 percent penetration on that market.
“We certainly want to grow that,” said Lanier. “The quickest and easiest way to grow that is to encourage techs to maintain certification. We have a pretty big number who 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 why we are making a lot of these changes.”
In order to increase their numbers, NATE is continuing to attempt to raise consumer awareness of the organization.
“Certainly, over time, more and more homeowners will become aware of our certification,” Lanier said.
“We are exploring the possibility of doing PSAs [public service announcements] in selective states. Any organization of our size is bound to face challenges, and, as a nonprofit, 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 select states where we can see if we can gain some traction and raise consumer awareness.”
For more information on NATE, visit www.natex.org.
Publication date: 2/3/2014