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Mission: HVAC 2016 – Challenge Four: Supporting the Trades

by | Jul 26, 2016 | Mission HVAC

From professional organizations like Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA), Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and Associated General Contractors of America (AGC of America) to non-profit certification and career-centric organizations like the North American Technical Excellence (NATE), Troops To Trades and Women in HVACR, there are plenty of resources out there that support the HVAC trade – and trades in general.

In this Mission, the Mission: HVAC students were asked to investigate these types of organizations by selecting and then researching one that piqued their interest. Check out what they learned:

Derick: Troops To Trades

For this mission, I chose Troops To Trades. I highly recommend any Military Veteran who is interested in going into a trade to look into this program. Troops To Trades provides “Veterans, National Guard and Reserve Members with career placement options, training grants and scholarships to help them find careers in the heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical residential service industries.”

What makes this program so great is that it helps Veterans, National Guard and Reserve Members find work by connecting them with companies that are looking to hire apprentice or inexperienced employees and train them.

It also creates a great network within the trade workforce. Their network in total has 150 businesses across the U.S. That’s a lot of people to be in contact with to be successful in your trade.

Not only does it help the transition from active duty to civilian, but also helps veterans who have already started civilian jobs and careers. Troops To Trades wants to help you succeed in your trade and will be there every step of the way.

Coming from the Navy, had I known about this program before I started school, I would have joined. It is designed for military, is free to use and is an organization that can help us be successful by pointing us in the right direction.

Learn more at uscomfort.com.

Jacob: North American Technician Excellence (NATE)

For this mission, I chose NATE (North American Technician Excellence) due to the fact that they are focused on the installation and trouble-shooting aspects for heat pumps, air conditioning systems and furnaces. For a beginner to the HVAC workforce like me, NATE has an emphasis on the problems a technician will likely encounter in the field and that seems like a good place to start.

To learn a little more, I talked with Gurminder Sidhu, senior director of operations at NATE. Here’s what I found out:

Q: “What is NATE?”

A: Founded in 1997, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is the nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians. Headquartered in Arlington, VA, NATE is the certification organization that was developed by, and has been supported by the entire HVACR industry for nearly 20 years.

Q: How was NATE established and what is its history?

A: Over 15 years ago a number of industry leaders came together to discuss concerns with the overall quality of field service and installation of HVACR equipment. From the perspective of manufacturing, distribution, and contracting, there were concerns that many individuals involved in servicing and installing systems and equipment lacked the proper knowledge and experience. And as a result, consumers and contractors were unhappy with recurring callbacks and added costs; manufacturers were receiving unnecessary and costly returns of equipment that were not defective; and technical advisors were plagued with repeated calls on service and installation questions that should have been common knowledge.

So in February 1997, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) was incorporated with organizational funding provided by manufacturers who guaranteed a bank loan through the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA). The NATE coalition was established with representation from the contracting, distribution, manufacturing and utility communities as well as several trade associations. An interim board of trustees was appointed, while sector committees (precursor to today’s Technical Committee) provided advice on test development. Pilot tests were given and on November 8, 1997, the first NATE tests were administered nationally.

Soon, our partners at the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) unified their certification tests under the NATE umbrella. In 2000, our coalition of partners expanded to include North American Heating, Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Wholesalers Association (NHRAW), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other industry organizations. By the end of 2001, more than more than 10,000 technicians had earned NATE certification.

In the first half of the 2000s, NATE introduced electronic testing. Awareness and support of NATE began to grow. Manufacturers “dealer” programs began to include NATE as a key component. The U.S. Army awarded promotion points to soldiers who earned NATE certification and the Montgomery GI Bill approved NATE, making veterans eligible for reimbursement of test fees, a benefit that still exists today. And in a first of its kind decision in 2005, the city council of Terre Haute, Indiana amended its city contractor licensing code to require NATE certification.

The second half of the decade saw New Hampshire and Texas each include NATE as part of its state licensing process, while NATE expanded its specialty certification suite to include hydronic heating, and commercial refrigeration. During this time, we also introduced the highest-level NATE certification to date—the Senior Efficiency Analyst certification—to test a technician’s knowledge of the installation, service, maintenance, and repair of HVACR system to maintain high levels of energy efficiency. Consumer awareness of NATE was growing and NATE worked to build on that awareness with the launching of the www.hvacradvice.com consumer website to help homeowners find contractors with NATE-certified technicians.

Today, there are over 32,000 NATE-certified HVACR technicians providing world class service and installations throughout North America and the numbers continue to grow. Our growth over the years does not mean we can rest our laurels. Quite the contrary. Now, more than ever, we need to increase industry and consumer awareness of the benefits of technicians holding NATE certification. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook 2012-2013, the number of HVACR technician jobs is forecast to grow at a rate of 34 percent — triple the national average. Recently, Fluke Corp. and its Workforce Trends 2012 survey found that 85 percent of industry employers found it “difficult or very difficult” to find entry-level workers that had acceptable skills while 38 percent of employers said candidates lacked an applicable degree or certification. Meanwhile, the new 2013 American Home Comfort Survey found that roughly 30 percent homeowners who recently had new HVACR equipment installed had to have a technician come back to solve a problem.

That is why our new vision statement – a NATE patch proudly worn on every technician’s shirt – is as relevant today as it has ever been. Simply put, while there are many qualified technicians in the field, many more are needed. It is still necessary to raise the bar for the good of the industry and NATE must continue to set the standards and certify the knowledge base for quality HVACR technicians. We know where we have been and know that the future of our industry is dependent on the continuing growth in the number of NATE-certified technicians, for they provide the assurance of continued quality service, installation, enhanced system performance, and energy efficiency.

Q: Who does NATE help and how?

  • Technicians who have earned NATE certification are preferred among consumers, require fewer callbacks, and generate more income for their employers, thus earning higher wages on average and demonstrating greater value to employers than non-certified technicians.
  • Contractors prefer NATE-certified technicians because they remain in the industry longer, know how to do the job right the first time and are more productive than non-certified technicians.
  • Manufacturers and Distributors know that NATE certification encourages proper installation and service, which means fewer warranty returns and, ultimately, a better bottom line.
  • Educators and Trainers benefit from NATE certification’s uniform testing standard.
  • Utilities appreciate NATE certification’s focus on correctly installing and servicing sophisticated HVACR equipment, which saves energy and money when operating at peak efficiency.
  • Consumers look for NATE certification because they are seeking knowledgeable, well-trained and highly experienced technician who will service their home heating or cooling systems.

Learn more at NateX.org.


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