In Defense of NATE

This is in response to the letter written by Dan Hazley in the Dec. 11 issue [“Questioning NATE Tests”]. I agree, wholeheartedly, that there is a severe need to have a nationally recognized certification for technicians. I also felt the need to take the test, not to test my skills, but to form my own opinion of the test. I went into the test with the mindset of a service technician ready to solve a customer’s problem.

I am an owner of an hvac service company, located in Columbia, SC. I am a certified NATE technician and proctor. I have been through numerous schools, including the Carrier centrifugal fundamentals, the centrifugal teardown, and the Liebert USA controls certification. I have taken the six-hour South Carolina Mechanical Contractors test, the six-hour South Carolina Municipal Association test, and the Master Journeyman’s test. I passed all of these tests successfully.

As a business owner, validating a service technician’s credentials is next to impossible. All too often, service technicians claim they have been to different schools, can perform many different tasks, and are EPA certified. That does not prove anything, whatsoever. NATE certification displays a service technician’s credibility to his employer, his peers (other service technicians), and the customer. There are RSES, ACCA, and other good certification programs, but there are two fundamental problems with not having a universal certification program.

The first problem is that the consumer is not aware of these organizations, their certification programs, and how it relates to them as a benefit. The second problem is that unless you’re involved with each one, it’s hard to compare apples to apples. This is why NATE certification is needed.

What I disagree with in the letter is the attitude of ignorance on behalf of NATE personnel with regards to the test. Some of the questions may not be technical by nature, but are useful when evaluating a service technician’s ability to handle customer complaints or frustrations. These “soft skills” are sometimes more valuable to an employer than the abilities of the best service technician who can’t communicate proficiently with an angry customer. As to the statement, “There were too many questions that had more than one correct answer,” the purpose of these questions, as stated by NATE personnel, was to pick the best correct answer. These questions reflect the everyday situations that a service technician is faced with. There may be more than one way to fix a problem, but the way a service technician goes about it can be the difference between night and day. If the service technician picks the best, most proficient way, then they will be more profitable for the company. An extreme example of this would be one service technician driving from supply house to supply house searching for a part compared to a service technician using the telephone to locate the part. This saves the company a great deal of unapplied time.

NATE certification separates the men from the boys. Quality service people will rise to the occasion. The industry needs this for many reasons. It will help employers hiring technicians, the technicians can demand higher wages because they are more valuable to the company, and customers will benefit by receiving quality service for their money. As an industry we all need to embrace the challenges that are ahead of us. NATE is a great step toward a unified industry standard.

Christopher Hennighan CorrecTemp of Carolina, Inc.

Just the Thing to Close the Deal

The letter from Norm Christopherson in the January 8 edition [“Selling High Schoolers on the Industry”] deserved to be on the front page. I have heard and read volumes on the subject of recruiting new blood for our industry but Mr. Christopherson cut right to the chase. He points out that we have done a great job of selling our goods and services to our markets but have failed to send “closers” into the high schools and other potential arenas to sell the attraction of careers in our industries. He is absolutely right — this particular selling job is one for top sales professionals.

I would encourage your readers to read his letter with particular attention to the last four paragraphs. Save your undivided attention for his last sentence: It will re-energize your excitement about our industry. Mr. Christopherson hits the nail right on the head and has articulated the solution far better than anyone to date.

Lou Bindner Climate Engineering, Inc. Denver, CO

Publication date: 01/29/2001