It appears I have a new friend. His name is Michael C. Fornino. A few weeks ago, he inquired about the status of technician testing and certification. (For those who may not remember, such was the content of the Aug. 2 editorial.)

Basically, Fornino - who made it known from the get-go in his letter to us that he is currently incarcerated in the Bay Correctional Facility in Panama City, Fla. - wanted a clarification regarding what was the technician certification test.

"The question I am searching an answer for has eluded me and everyone else because I want to know which certifications are recognized by contractors and customers," he wrote. "What testing corporation should I be truly going to in order to obtain the certifications? In theory, if we future technicians could afford it, we'd try to obtain every certification we could get our hands on, but why waste money that could be used for quality tools and equipment for something that truly is not reflective of our knowledge?"

In a nutshell, it was so noted here that North American Technician Excellence (NATE) has the definitive inside track as far as becoming the certification for the industry. However, it was also noted here that there still seems to be a vast amount of confusion out there among contractors regarding which program is the best - even questioning the value of the entire certification process.

One Man's Opinion

Robert P. Scaringe, Ph.D., P.E., president of Mainstream Engineering Corp, Rockledge, Fla., was the first to speak up. He was quick and to the point in his e-mail.

"I just had to write this response," wrote Scaringe. "These certification programs are, with the exception of the EPA-required 608 and 609 certifications, simply a rip-off, and I believe it is time someone went on record to say so." The Aug. 2 editorial, he said, "absolutely struck a nerve with me."

He continued: "In response, I suggest that the HVACR certification process would be better described as a circus rather than a jungle. I make this statement based on my experience, which includes more than 30 years in the HVACR business, a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, and a professional engineering license."

This reader believes that "purchased certifications" - his words - "are not worth the paper on which they are printed.

"Anyone can pay hundreds of dollars for a diploma or laminated paper card," he wrote.

"But these useless technician skills certifications do not train the technician nor improve his/her knowledge. They merely line the pockets of some company."

If you would like to read all of Mr. Scaringe's observations regarding this topic, please refer to the column "Reader Mail: 08/23/2004" in this issue. And keep checking the "Reader Mail" section to find more dialogue. This probably isn't the end of the certification discussion.

Are You Hiring?

While you are putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, keep in mind that Mr. Fornino has inquired about another issue for which he seeks answers. He writes, "As you are already aware, I am incarcerated, taking an HVACR course. I have 9.5 months left and desire a job as an HVACR technician when I leave.

"My questions relate to me becoming employed as a technician with the stigma of being an ex-felon. Do you know where companies stand on their hiring of ex-felons? Do they shy away from us - even when we are certified and hold various certifications?

"Do they know - and are they aware that - they are eligible for tax relief by hiring ex-felons? Are they also aware that we can be federally bonded at no cost to them?

"Do they realize that hiring us produces some of the most reliable and best employees? [And that's] mainly because we have been on the other side of the fence and have no desire whatsoever to return."

Where do you stand on this subject, Mr. and Mrs. HVACR Contractor? If you have hired an ex-felon, how has that worked out? Would you consider hiring one? What would prevent you from hiring an ex-felon?

Keep those cards and letters coming.

Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

Publication date: 08/23/2004