As announced in a recent article inThe News(“The Union Side of Certification,” Sept. 23), the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) was considering a formal adoption of the certification offered by North American Technician Excellence (NATE).

NEMI is a not-for-profit organization sponsored by the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA). NEMI works to provide SMACNA and SMWIA members with new training opportunities and informs them of emerging markets.

For example, NEMI, with the help of the International Training Institute (ITI), recently launched Testing, Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (TABB) Certification. According to NEMI, the certification guarantees building owners and managers that the contractors, supervisors, or technicians balancing their buildings’ HVAC systems can verify that they are operating to design specifications.

Now, NEMI will be able to provide its members with a service certification by offering the NATE exam.


According to Erik Emblem, executive director of NEMI, the organization already provides a multi-year curriculum for training service technicians. The NATE exam will serve as a service certification for this curriculum.

Emblem said that NEMI chose NATE because “It represents a sound procedure that sets a base level of competency recognized by manufacturers and consumers.” Emblem believes that this recognition will be beneficial to the organization’s members.

Members of SMWIA now have the opportunity to take the NATE certification exam at one of the 165 SMWIA local training centers across the country. The exam will be provided at no charge to these members.
“[NATE] will assist our service contractors in establishing the credibility of their business and allowing their customers to reap the additional warranty benefits afforded consumers who have products installed and serviced by NATE-certified technicians,” he said. “By virtue of this alone, our members will garner more work opportunities.”

NEMI had several options in providing members with a service certification and even deliberated on creating its own certification. Representatives from NEMI met with representatives of NATE and decided in late September to cooperate with the testing organization.

NATE has the backing of several industry associations and almost every HVACR manufacturer. There are also more than 11,500 NATE-certified technicians. NEMI’s support of NATE is unique because it is the first union organization to back NATE. But Emblem believes that his organization should be seeking certification and training methods that will ultimately benefit union members.

Currently, NEMI is getting the word out to its members about NATE and how the members can take part in the certification. Soon NEMI will begin sending newsletters to each of its service contractors and training instructors, encouraging them to assist technicians in obtaining an application for the NATE exam.

Technicians will be able to take the exam at any of the 165 SMWIA training facilities located throughout North America. Besides the service curriculum, to further prepare technicians for the exam, NEMI will require a preliminary exam before taking the NATE test.

SMWIA members have nothing to lose by taking the NATE exam. “There will be no cost to SMWIA union technicians for the exam,” said Emblem.

Finally, Emblem said that NEMI will coordinate marketing efforts to educate the public about training through SMWIA, its members, and NATE certification.

“Our cooperation with NATE is an important step towards creating a higher standard of excellence in HVAC service work,” he said. “I look forward to working with NATE in the future and ensuring that customers in North America receive the highest level of quality HVAC service work available.”


Rex Boynton, president of NATE, said that NEMI’s support of the organization’s certification is an important step in the right direction.

“NATE has been committed to representing union and non-union,” he said.

Boynton pointed out that NATE tried for several years to get a union official on the NATE committee. With the NATE/NEMI agreement, Emblem will have a position with the NATE coalition as a nonvoting member.

Boynton believes that with NEMI’s support, the door has been opened to reach other union officials and organizations.

He also said that with NEMI on board, NATE can provide certification to a larger segment of the industry. To be more specific, NATE will provide its exams to the more than 150,000 SMWIA union sheet metal workers.

Boynton said that NATE will work with ITI to make sure that resources and training for the NATE exam are available to SMWIA members. This includes making sure that training through ITI is aligned with NATE’s Know-ledge Areas of Technician Expertise (KATE). The KATEs provide an outline for what instructors should be teaching in order for students to pass the NATE certification.

According to Boynton, the agreement between NEMI and NATE only has positive consequences. He said it will offer greater visibility for the NATE exam. More importantly, Boynton believes that NEMI’s choice to use the NATE exam for its service curriculum shows that there is no need to “reinvent the wheel.”

Publication date: 12/09/2002