Why Aren’t You a Certified Onsite Installer?

Certification and continuing education are vital to maintain professional — and personal — standards for the industry. Are the minimum standards enough?
Why Aren’t You a Certified Onsite Installer?
Mark Hacker, co-owner of Hacker Plumbing and Drilling in Vincennes, Ind., shown at left, credits much of his success to onsite certification and continuing education.

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When I received my new card for certification as a Certified Professional Soil Scientist, I was shocked to see a new line on the card: Certified for 42 years. 

It was an eye-opening realization of how long I have truly been in the industry, but it also highlighted that during my entire career, I had earned at least 40 continuing education units every two years to maintain the necessary requirements. 

The bottom line? Although most states do not require a certification, many issue licenses based on certain contractor criteria. Regardless, continuing education and certification are vital to maintaining onsite industry professionalism and personal standards. 

Level the playing field

Certification is a voluntary process by which an organization grants recognition to a professional who has met predetermined standards. I’ve been involved for many years in continuing education and certification programs for the National Association of Wastewater Technicians. 

Many other certification programs or opportunities are available, but, from a business standpoint, it’s important to participate and be certified. Through education and certification, you gain a more structured way to share your experiences with your peers and to improve yourself from their knowledge. 

One thing that always separates this industry from others is the extent to which people will go to find practical answers to their questions and to share that knowledge with those just starting out. Despite the independent nature of the industry, and its competitiveness, this trait is something I see all the time. 

NAWT certification programs are voluntary, which is what separates them from state licensing programs. State licensing programs set the minimum standards and requirements to do the work within a state. State-to-state license requirements vary — some are tied to education credits while others simply require demonstrated abilities to run equipment and payment of the fees. 

Certification through NAWT programs or other similar programs shows that those who are certified are truly committed to their profession and are keeping up to date with changes in technology. Those people recognize that being certified helps them stay competitive in the market and keep up with customer relationships. It is a way to indicate that you are committed to continued improvement in your profession out of care and dedication — not because you are required by a state agency and wouldn’t be allowed to work in the field otherwise. 

Mark Hacker, co-owner of Hacker Plumbing and Drilling in Vincennes, Ind., credits much of his success to onsite certification and continuing education.

In the 1990s, Hacker enrolled in onsite courses, and joined IOWPA and the National Association of Wastewater Technicians to become better versed in his profession.

“Indiana doesn’t have a state licensing program,” says Hacker in 2013 Onsite Installer article. “It’s up to counties, which began requiring contractors to be licensed in the early 2000s. I wanted certification to prove I was a professional.”

Not sure certification is right for you? Consider this. By reading up on alternative technologies and becoming certified, Hacker doubled annual onsite revenue for the first three years by installing advanced treatment units and repairing troubled drainfields.

Defined standards

All certification programs have a set of standards that define them. Get to know the standards of the organizations you belong to. Anyone who can meet the standards through exams, education, experience and others can become certified.

Standards also define what type of work you should be able to do, and the information you should know. Certification helps you demonstrate your abilities and knowledge to customers.

A number of factors drive the demand and need for certification, and they hold true for virtually all professions. These include continuing technological innovation, exponential increases in the knowledge required and the public’s demand for standards and assurances that the professional they hire can meet them.

Through the certification program’s continuing education requirements, you’re continually updating and adding to your knowledge and skills. Lifelong learning is important for any professional and is at the heart of onsite industry certification programs.

Think of it as raising the bar of professionalism. As our profession becomes more recognized, there is a great opportunity for state associations and organizations to become involved in the education process.

Take the step

From a business perspective, it is important that you build certification for yourself and for your employees into your business plan. If you are considering expanding into other areas, start with education and certification programs to help focus those plans and to give a more accurate sense of whether the expansion will succeed.

Widely used credentials specific to the onsite treatment industry include.

  • NAWT Certified Inspector
  • NAWT Certified Installer
  • NAWT Operation and Maintenance Certifications (Part 1 and Part 2)
  • NAWT Certified Vacuum Truck Driver
  • National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) Certified Installer of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (Basic and Advanced)

Become involved and support the certification programs of your state association, and other professional organizations. You will be very happy with the outcome.

Be sure to register for WWETT 2015 to get all the education you need in one place. Registration is only $35 until Nov. 14, after which the price goes up to $60 until Jan. 23. Think about it. A mere $35 gets you countless networking opportunities, a full day — and more — of education classes, and a sneak peek at the newest technologies from more than 500 exhibitors.

Visit www.wwett.com/registration for more information. 

How would a national certification for onsite installers benefit the industry? Post a comment below.

About the Author

Jim Anderson is connected with the University of Minnesota onsite wastewater treatment education program, is an emeritus professor in the university’s Department of Soil Water and Climate, and education coordinator for the National Association of Wastewater Technicians.

Send him questions about septic system maintenance and operation by email to ander045@umn.edu.


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