I will soon be attending my first AHR Expo in Atlanta, GA.

I’ve been told what to expect by many people, and all of them have focused on the amount of work that will need to be accomplished. I am actually looking forward to it. Besides, maybe it will be warmer in Atlanta than it is here in Troy, MI.

As training and education editor, I have seen that this year’s expo is not only going to be a showcase for manufacturers’ products, but an excellent educational opportunity for many technicians and contractors. Over the weekend of the event, there will be several forums and seminars to attend. These seminars will discuss a variety of technical issues, everything from centrifugal chillers to dehumidification applications.

There will also be a number of free training seminars presented by sponsoring organizations.

For example, the Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Condition-ing Institute of Canada (HRAI) will offer training on Residential Mechanical Ventilation and Resi-dential Integrated Combo Systems.

We all know that the industry is having a difficult time finding qualified technicians, and this is why owners and employees must make the most of the events and opportunities available at the AHR Expo. If you or your employees are fortunate to attend the expo this year, try to take advantage of this free training.

Certification Opportunities

There will also be opportunities for technicians to earn certification at the expo. North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and Hvac Excellence will both be on hand to administer their tests.

Hvac Excellence will be offering their certification for free during the weekend, while NATE will have a fee for its exam.

The issue of certification is another thing entirely. I get a great deal of feedback on certification, and industry opinion is divided on this issue.

NATE is one of the most well known certification programs, either for good or bad. I have spoken to people who say NATE is exactly what the industry needs right now — one universal test to measure all technicians.

On the other side of the fence are individuals who say a universal test is ideal, but NATE is not the way to go. I’ve heard complaints that the NATE exam has not been perfected yet and that many of the test questions are irrelevant. For example, NATE tests technicians on soft skills such as how to handle customers or complaints. Where one side of the argument says technicians need to know these skills, others say that a technician’s knowledge should be measured by his or her technical prowess.

Another complaint is that the NATE exam is multiple choice, and asks technicians to pick the best answer, not the one true correct answer.

I think it is safe to say that NATE has room to improve. Maybe some questions do need to be reworked. And maybe NATE needs to do more to get its name out to the public and convince technicians of its worth.

And what is the worth of Hvac Excellence certification? There are some who may say that the organization does not have the backing of the industry. How do you determine whether this certification is worthy or how it stacks up against other programs?

Get Involved

Time will tell. NATE is in its infancy still and has a great deal of potential. Hvac Excellence will, according to some sources, have a huge turnout for its free testing.

But however you feel about certification and the specific testing organizations, I believe it is good advice to give it a try. Whether you try for the Hvac Excellence certification or take the NATE exam, doing so says a lot about the technicians who try.

Do we need one standard to judge all technicians? It seems like a great idea. But in the meantime, while it’s being perfected, let’s not ignore certification altogether.

Don’t think of the certification tests as a subject for debate, but something that will raise the level of technicians.

So with all that in mind, take advantage of these free offerings. And take advantage of this opportunity to see where you are in the field, what you know, and what you still could learn.

Also, have a great time and I hope to meet many of you in Atlanta.

Siegel is training and education editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1731; 248-362-0317 (fax); siegelj@bnp.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 01/22/2001