For the past several months, the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) has hinted at a return of its National Technician Certification (NTC). In fact, at the association’s annual conference back in November, an announcement was made that the certification would be reintroduced.

As of April 4, RSES made that news official. The organization has redesigned and reinstated the NTC program almost two years after dropping it. The test originally made its debut in 1983 and certified over 70,000 technicians. But the test was shelved when RSES aligned forces with North American Technician Excellence (NATE) with the goal of establishing one universal certification program.

Although NTC is making a comeback, RSES says the universal certification goal is still important and it will still back NATE.

Association’s Motivation

“One of the big reasons we’re bringing it back is because of our customers,” said Renee Tomlinson, assistant director of training for RSES, about the return of NTC. “They were dissatisfied with other exams being offered through other institutions.”

To be more specific, Robb Isaacs, RSES executive vice president, CMS, says that the organization was receiving numerous requests from members who wanted the certification test they were more familiar with. Over 200 individuals asked for the certification in the month of March alone, and RSES decided to give the exam to those who requested it even before it was officially announced that the NTC would be reinstated.

So far, the certification has been given to select utility companies, but Isaacs says that the exam will be opened to anyone in the industry upon request only. Currently, RSES has no plans of issuing specific exam dates for mass testing, but says the test will be available at RSES chapters and seminars.

According to Tomlinson, some of the NTC exams are still being updated, but when that process is completed, there will be a total of five exams. These include three separate heat pump exams, a refrigeration and air-conditioning exam, and a heating exam.

As for some of the specific complaints that RSES customers had of the other certifications, Isaacs points out a few of the major criticisms.

First, he says that individuals were taking other exams and being confronted with questions of a non-technical nature. Isaacs explains that they were not prepared for the non-technical questions and were scoring low on the exams. With this in mind, Isaacs says that good, experienced techs with years of experience were not doing well on these exams. The NTC exam, according to Isaacs, had a 70-75% passing rate when it was previously offered.

Another complaint was the availability of other certification exams. Isaacs says that some customers complained about eligibility requirements to take certain tests, as well as the difficulty in obtaining permission to give an exam.

Isaacs says that he believes RSES will be able to provide its certification in a more flexible manner. He also says that by bringing NTC back, RSES can reach the needs of many individuals.

“We determined there was a market that we needed to address,” said Isaacs.

Relationship With NATE

With the NTC program already being issued, RSES says that its position with NATE will stay the same.

“We still continue to support the NATE test,” said Tomlinson. She also said that the NATE exam would still continue to be offered to RSES chapters and members.

“We still support NATE and we are still a voting member,” Isaacs concurred. “We want it to survive.”

RSES joined forces with NATE in order to promote universal certification and even stopped offering the NTC exam to further the cause.

“Most of the industry stood behind the NATE test to show unity — to show we had the same goal of one certification,” said Tomlinson.

But some may question this move on the part of RSES as being counterproductive to that goal. Isaacs disagrees, “I don’t think it will cause much of a problem. We’ll be unique because we can provide training for our certification. Other certifications do not have a study program.”

Besides offering NTC, RSES provides training opportunities for members as well as the new Technical Institute (TI) Manuals.

NATE officials were left to wonder how the situation would play out.

“We have received no formal notice that they [RSES] intended to do this,” said NATE president Rex Boynton. Although there was no formal announcement made to the NATE organization, Boynton does say that he had heard of the possibility of RSES reintroducing the NTC program.

Without any formal talks with RSES, Boynton said he could not rush to judgment on the organization’s certification program. But Boynton did say that RSES will remain a valued NATE member.

Since the beginning of the organization, NATE has had to clear many hurdles in promoting its program and furthering its goal for universal certification. Most recently, NATE has been attacked for some of the same reasons Isaacs says that RSES customers wanted to see NTC return.

Boynton defends NATE and says that its certification test has recently undergone changes.

In January, according to Boynton, a new NATE exam was introduced that had eliminated any unclearly worded questions or questions with more than one answer. Since the new exam was introduced, Boynton says that comments from test takers have improved, with most respondents stating that the exam is tough but fair.

Despite the fact that the NTC exam is being reintroduced, Boynton is still optimistic.

“We’re clear on who we are and where we are,” he said about NATE. “We continue to pursue our mission and vision.”