The majority of remodelers value education, according to a Qualified Remodeler reader poll, but smaller numbers have made the commitment to become certified under programs offered by the major industry associations, correctly emphasizing that education and certification are not the same thing.
Most remodelers (84 percent) have taken some type of continuing education course related to the industry, but the survey reveals the signature professional organizations are not as well represented as one might have expected. The responses do indicate, however, there is a variety of educational opportunities available — and a great deal of interest in continuing education.
Respondents reported taking courses as follows: National Association of Home Builders, 18.4 percent; National Kitchen and Bath Association, 11.8 percent; and National Association of the Remodeling Industry, 9.5 percent. More than half report taking courses from other associations, private educational organizations (such as sales consultants and business coaches) and groups that don’t fall into any of the other categories. The courses this half of the survey respondents took included: state licensing courses, manufacturers and building material distributors.
Certification numbers closely mirror where remodelers are taking courses, suggesting that those who take association-sponsored courses are most often doing so to gain certification. Respondents report certifications from: NAHB, 10.6 percent; NKBA, 7.8 percent; and NARI, 7.6 percent. More than a third are EPA lead certified, and 23 percent have no certification.
Not the Same Thing
Certification and education are not the same thing, points out NARI director of education Dan Taddei, which suggests an explanation for the divergence between the number of survey respondents who have taken courses but who are not certified. Education and training are highly valued — and perhaps more accessible — than certification.
“One of the challenges for me is that [some people] view certification as education, and it’s not,” he says. “Certification demonstrates knowledge or skill, depending on the certification you’re seeking. Education is the acquisition of knowledge to change behavior, to gather information to run a company better or to use a particular product. That’s education and training.”
Taddei also notes the current economic climate has had an effect on remodelers seeking certification. NARI has dropped prices for most of its certifications by $200, recognizing the challenges remodelers are facing financially.
NARI certification candidates generally participate in study groups to prepare for exams, although participating in one is not an absolute requirement. “But they’re usually not successful unless they participate in a study group of some sort. There have been people who have done it on their own, but usually they get frustrated after six months or so,” Taddei says. “Our test is a challenging exam; we’ve had about a 75 percent pass rate.”
Of those certified, only 56 percent feel certification has helped them competitively. Detractors of certification often argue that homeowners and the general public don’t know what the designations mean. Yet, survey respondents indicate they often don’t use their certifications to promote their business. Twenty-two percent say they put their designations on a business card, and the percentages drop for things such as websites, advertising, sales literature, and truck and jobsite signs.
Contradiction of Perceptions
Contradicting the perceived lack of public awareness and value of certifications, the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s market research shows more that 80 percent of the time consumers would rather work with someone who is certified as opposed to someone who is not, according to Andrew Mackenzie, manager, certification for NKBA. National Association of Home Builder market information found a similar percentage: 83 percent of consumers found certified contractors more professional and credible. (See chart, p. 30)