The sizzling summer is in full swing, and the HVAC service/replacement residential market is pretty hot as well. This means an old problem for HVAC contractors is once again rearing its ugly head — finding quality employees to go on these calls.
With the currently high unemployment rate in the country, HVAC contractors are at least fishing in a pond that is well stocked. In the past, it might have been hard to get many applicants to apply for a position, but I’m told in conversations with contractors that a few more resumes are coming in these days.
But these are not necessarily experienced HVAC folks who are applying for these jobs. Some are coming from different industries altogether — no doubt industries that have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. I have talked to many HVAC contractors who would rather train and build someone from the ground up than try to reverse what the individual has learned at previous industry jobs. There is nothing wrong with that way of doing things, but if that is the case, those contractors really need to focus on training.
North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is a big part of how the industry trains its technicians. They have recognized this trend of inexperienced technicians and have developed a program called CHP 5.
“Finding quality technicians is changing, and we realized we had to come up with a different approach,” NATE COO John Lanier told The ACHR NEWS in a recent NEWSmakers podcast. “Contractors are hiring technicians with no experience at all. We want to help develop the technicians very early in their careers.”
What NATE has introduced is a certification path that mirrors the on-the-job training that many new technicians receive. CHP-5 stands for Certified HVAC Professional 5. It follows a concept called micro learning.
This new way to earn NATE certification consists of five 30-question exams instead of the traditional 50-question core exam and 100-question specialty exam. Each exam covers one of five different subject domains: HVAC Fundamentals, Electrical and Controls, Comfort and Airflow, Installation, and Service. NATE recommends taking the exams in order for the easiest progression; however, technicians can take the exams in any order they choose. Candidates can take up to six months between each exam to study and prepare.
Lanier said it was the difference between just taking a final exam in high school or taking tests after each section of the subject was completed.
“It is an opportunity to demonstrate competence in smaller, more manageable pieces. I really think it will help technicians a lot,” Lanier said.
These smaller exams are developed in the same way as previous NATE exams. They have a technical committee of volunteers that define competency and develop the questions.
Perhaps the best part of the program is the adjustment they made in this COVID-19 world. In addition to the traditional places exams can be taken, there is now live online proctoring, which allows technicians to take exams from their home.
NATE teamed up with Interplay Learning to offer this option for technicians.
“People will just need a webcam for their computer. An online proctor will monitor the process. This will ensure the health and safety of anyone wanting to take the test,” Lanier said.
Lanier was quick to point out that this new program does not change anything for technicians who are already NATE certified.
Something to think about as you bring new employees on board. For more information, visit www.natex.org.