A conversation overheard at a local supply house coffee bar: “If I train my employees, they will leave me and go to work for someone else.”

“And if you don’t train them, they will stay!”

Education has been a part of my business life ever since I went to work as an apprentice for my father, who was not only a great dad but an excellent mentor and trainer. Of course, this man had to live with me as a child and all my inquisitiveness. I’m sure I drove him crazy with my million-question barrages that probably seemed like they would never end. I had an insatiable appetite to learn “why” things are the way they are. Fortunately for me, he always answered my questions and shared his valuable knowledge with me or anyone else who was willing to listen.

I think I’ve been an educator ever since I received my first plumbing license. In fact, shortly after I received my journeyman’s license, I was teaching classes on installing and wiring 24-volt zone valves for a local natural gas educational organization called the Rocky Mountain Gas Association. The organization is long gone, but I continue to educate and train.

I used to teach classes at a local community college named Red Rocks. I churned out probably a few hundred well-educated, open-minded hydronic heating contractors who allow me to sleep well at night knowing my knowledge has been shared and is being paid forward.

At the time, I was in the contracting business. One of my students asked me how I felt about “raising” my competition. I answered that as long as my competitors were willing to compete on a level playing field, I had no problem bidding against them under any scenario. In fact, I told all my students that if they found themselves bidding against me, to give it their best shot and do all that I had taught them to do. Don’t focus on being the least expensive; focus on being the most comprehensive bid. That is what I would be doing. I was never the low bidder for any job on which I bid.


CEU proof

In some states, it is mandatory for contractors and the authority having jurisdiction to show proof of continuing education. This is found primarily along the East Coast, yet we are seeing more and more licensing entities joining in on this effort to maintain licensure by requiring contractors and inspectors to take approved courses to gain the necessary continuing education units.

Personally, I believe continuing education should be a requirement of license renewal. I say this because although I maintain my plumbing license, my state doesn’t have a CEU requirement and I have found myself in embarrassing situations due to the lack of a need for these CEUs. Times change and so do the plumbing and mechanical codes. If you are not continually exposed to the need for inspections and are not aware of code changes, you may find yourself in the hot seat. When you do eventually ply your trades it may be in a situation where an inspector is required to look at your work and approve or deny it.

Such was the case with me. Ask me any question about hydronics and I guarantee I can answer it correctly. Ask me a question on the difference between the Uniform Plumbing Code and the International Plumbing Code, and I am going to be caught in an embarrassing situation. Hence my reason for believing that continuing education is a necessary function.

One major reason for reluctance on the participating contractor/inspector’s part to gather the necessary CEUs to maintain licensure is the loss of labor associated with the process of gaining them. At a minimum, a day’s worth of productive time is lost to gather just a few CEUs. Anyone who has ever been in a self-employed situation understands the value of labor and the revenue avoidance associated with not being productive.

Over this series of articles, we will look at the many ways of fulfilling CEU requirements while maintaining the typical 8- to 12-hour business day. We will start by looking at the conventional delivery method and then at some alternative delivery methods. We also will look at some upcoming certification programs and their requirements for CEUs.

Face-to-face training is one of the oldest methods of delivering CEU-based classes and is still quite prevalent. Unfortunately, this type of class will chew up a contractor’s or inspector’s valuable production time. In many cases, the availability of fresh class topics and fresh faces to present these classes is extremely limited. Due to the required quantity of CEUs, many people cycle through the offerings in short order and find themselves coming up short without having to delve into areas that are off topic for their chosen field.

One distinct advantage of the face-to-face setting is the ability of the students to ask questions of the presenter and delve deeper into the subject at hand. It’s what I refer to as the “Why?” syndrome. Why do I have to do “X” when I have been using the “Y” method for years and it works fine? This is not always the case with canned online education programs. Students can ask questions, but won’t receive answers in a timely manner.

Tune in this fall to learn more about the need for continuing education in the trades and the roll the Radiant Professionals Alliance provides in the effort to raise the bar for our industry.