In an effort to increase the number of technicians that are certified and more importantly recertified, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) has made changes to its certification program. With one in every three NATE tests being given by a HARDI member, distributors are hoping this increases participation in NATE.
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 hours (CEHs) 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 COO. “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.”
Mingledorff’s Inc. was recognized again as the HARDI distributor that certified the most NATE technicians across multiple testing locations.
Research shows that barriers to NATE certification are 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,” said Lanier. “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.”
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 public service announcements 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.”
RECOGNIZING DISTRIBUTOR PARTICIPATION
At the 2013 HARDI Annual Conference, NATE recognized four HARDI member companies for their outstanding efforts to promote NATE technician certification and the advancement of the HVACR industry. The awards were presented as large banner signs, which the receiving member companies can display in their locations to recognize their accomplishments, while also driving interest in NATE technician certification among their customers. Winners included:
• 2013 NATE Top Certifier — Mingledorff’s Inc. of Norcross, Ga., was recognized again as the HARDI distributor that certified the most NATE technicians across multiple testing locations.
• 2013 NATE Single Location Top Certifier — Johnstone Supply in Denver. Also a 2012 repeat winner, the Johnstone Supply Denver location was recognized for certifying more NATE technicians than any other HARDI member at a single location.
• 2013 NATE Most Improved Certifier — Airefco Inc. of Tualatin, Ore., was recognized as the HARDI distributor with the greatest increase in the number of NATE technician certifications from the past year.
• 2013 Rising Star Certifier Award — Kru-Kel of Charleston, S.C., was recognized as the HARDI distributor serving as a first-time NATE testing organization with the greatest number of NATE technician certifications in the year.