WASHINGTON - A seminar titled "Raising the Bar of Technician Competence" brought some familiar faces and names to the podium at the International Congress of Refrigeration (ICR): Rex Boynton and Pat Murphy of the North American Technician Excellence (NATE); Skip Snyder, a Philadelphia-area contractor and NATE chairman; and Herman Kling, Carrier vice president for sales and NATE vice chairman.

The turnout was small but certainly international.

When an audience member from Switzerland said the turnout showed a worldwide lack of concern for qualified technicians, Snyder said, on the plus side, that those in the audience in effect become ambassadors in promoting the message that technicians need to be properly trained and tested.

The Message

Boynton outlined the development of NATE, noting that there has been a rapid increase in the number of technicians taking the exams.

Murphy outlined the process that goes into developing questions used in the various exams.

Snyder spoke of the importance of a contractor having qualified technicians as measured against a standard like that of the NATE tests.

Kling told of Carrier's efforts to have contractors in its Factory Authorized Dealer program make sure that at least 50 percent of their technicians (per company) are NATE certified.

The departure from normal NATE presentations came with the nature of the questions from the international audience.

The Swiss attendee noted that NATE sees success when end users eventually demand NATE-certified technicians. He suggested that such customers are homeowners; in Europe, not that many homes have air conditioning.

He said principal customers for contractors in Europe are businesses, whose bosses expect the work to be done properly and on budget and hold the contractor accountable regardless of the competence of the technicians. "People don't demand certification," he said.

An attendee from Italy said technicians in his country are expected to follow standard procedures. "I don't even know if they are tested," he said.

Conversation eventually moved to the problem in the United States of counselors and parents pushing high school students toward four-year colleges rather than vocational programs.

An attendee from Spain noted that in much of Europe, students who are 13 to 14 years old are steered either into a vocational career path or to a high school that prepares the students for university studies. But even with the earlier encouragement to enter a vocational field, he said qualified students are lacking in many fields. Others in the audience echoed his comments.

International Direction

Boynton said that at this point NATE is focusing on the residential and light commercial areas. He said larger commercial and industrial sectors would follow, as will more attention to refrigeration. He also said he hopes NATE can take its approach to an international level.

Kling said the NATE component of the Carrier dealership program is already in place in the United States and Canada, with consideration now being given for a similar approach in Mexico.

Publication date: 11/03/2003