Certifications: Good Idea or Bad Idea?

How do the members of the pressure washing and window cleaning communities feel about certifications??

Lets hear the positives and the negatives…

Oh man touchy subject…

I am really on the fence about them. In the window cleaning world our main trade association (the IWCA) provides certification for for high rise window cleaning. I think this is a really good idea, it keeps people alive. Hanging off the side of a building a hundred stories in the air is no joke. I think the benefit is really personal safety and not so much customer perception. As far as I know I havent heard of anyone say 'we only want a IWCA certified cleaner on this building" Although just because I havent heard doesn’t mean it hasn’t happend.

In the pressure washing world especially in residential I dont think we will ever get to the point of a customer seeking out a certified washer. People just dont care. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be important for training the contractor the correct way. Over on Facebook I saw this comment today:

Gary Mauer[COLOR=#333333][FONT=lucida grande] [/FONT][/COLOR][COLOR=#333333][FONT=lucida grande]What most people overlook in these debates is that a certification process can help you learn.

I think there is a lot of truth in what Gary said.

[COLOR=#333333][FONT=lucida grande][FONT=Verdana]


Overall I would say at this point unless its done really right I am against them.

I would urge people to maybe get OSHA certified. That logo actually means something to homeowners and if you take one of their 10 or 30 hour classes you will get some pretty serious safety training. It could keep you alive and help you avoid some pretty hefty fines. Most if surveyed for example would probably have no idea what you can and cant legally do while working at heights.

We are sending one of our main guys this fall to a series of OSHA training classes to get certified to certify others. So once he is certified he can run the rest of our staff through the training and certify the whole company. But this wont be take some 150 question test thing and boom your certified. Its a real deal series of classes and tests. It cant be taken online either, its in a real class room setting.

I happen to agree with you. I fail to see the necessity of the certifications especially in the residential market. I ask because of the push on by the UMC to get this done. I wonder what contrators see as the positives and the negatives. Its also nice to see what has to be said in a neutral forum. I also doubt that anyone who owns or manages a high rise would allow someone to dangle off their roof without the high rise certification and proper insurance.
Anyone else?

I have only been asked about certification one time on a roof cleaning. The customer told me the other contractor was a certified roof cleaner and who they were certified by. I explained to the customer what the certification process was for the certifying org. Once he heard what it was he gave me the job.

I think certification can beneficial in certain areas. If you are going to have certifications it should be based on more than having attended a 1 day seminar and taking a test.

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i like the quote from gary. i dont think that you should need a cert to be a certified cleaner, i think you should want a cert for education. if i give my kid enough money, he can go to home depot and get a pressure washer. it doesnt mean that he knows what hes doing. its a good thing for a business owner, once he’s sure that his new hire is gonna be worth the expense, he can send him out to a class and that tech can learn all about safety and chems and cleaning procedures. the grade on the certification could also give a business owner some insight on to his employee. we send all of our carpet cleaning techs to iicrc classes. they are priceless in my opinion

This has always been as long as I can remember and iteresting and at time a very touchy subject. On one Breath its like lets snag all the newbies and sell them the Brooklyn Bridge(The Certification) and it just seems like another avenue to make a few bucks off of them.

On the second Breath Most of these Industry Certifications don’t cost to much. Maybe in the range of $200 plus or minus. They can learn from these quick courses which is a good thing and if it gives them confidence thats always a good thing. They can also Market there certifications on there websites. Does it really mean much??? Thats up to the ones who go out and get certified but what Certifications do is give people a choice in this Industry… They Don’t have to take them or they can if they want to.

Now to get to the meat and the potatoes of some of these certifications thats where it gets touchy. Some promote or are going to promote that there certifications are recognized. Recognized by Whom?

If you want talk examples of this by who recognizes what we can start with the PWNA who I belong to. The organization recognizes there certifications and they put there name on it. Thats a step in the right direction. Also the PWNA is bonded. They have Insurance. How that insurance pertains to the PWNA and potential litigation if someone was to use there Certification as a defense to fight a charge I’m not very clear on that yet but they do back there certifications.

These type of certifications are a benefit to the PWNA contractor because he has a choice to take them or not and there backed by the org. They also can generate money for the org. and the ones teaching it. That’s good because the org. needs money to survive and the teacher needs money to keep teaching or You will lose them.

On a commercial type certification such as on the Environmental side that can add value to your business once again if you Market it right. If a potential Commercial customer was to research the Certification they can find out if the company is certified thru contacting the PWNA office and maybe there website as well. So that’s all good.

Are they important??? Depends on the person who is taking it and if he or she thinks its important to boost there sales while maybe they learned something as well.

Now comes the Integrity part. To make the certification fly is someone lying about who recognizes it? Are they padding on the idea that the Proper Authorities are recognizing them but there is no proof of that? Are they going about it the right way especially in a non profit on how these Certifications are coming about and who the teachers are etc.?

This is where people can get a bad taste in there mouths on what’s going on here and the Environmental certs are going to be on the top of the heap with all of this because companies are getting fined for not cleaning properly etc in this side of the Industry.

I can say this… They have to be money makers and not a burden as in a money losing prospect for a non profit org. because if the org. is losing money on it then it affects its membership at large because they have a vested interest in there membership thru the Organization. The more valuable the Organization becomes financially and also having a voice where it counts that all increases the value to a persons membership. An example of this is when you look at very successful org’s that don’t even have to charge members to go to there large trade shows.

But until these certifications get recognize somewhere they don’t really hold much value except that they may help you get a new customer somewhere and that is your end goal in this business which is to make money.

Lastly do I support org’s to have Certification classes for there membership?? I would say yes because it just gives the member another choice but until it becomes recognized somewhere in the power structure in this country it only today stands as a choice but not a necessity.

Good post John.

I would love to hear others constructive comments about this.

I think there can definitely be value in teaching a contractor how to do certain technical things, especially where there is a risk of destroying property if the technical rules aren’t followed properly… Soft Wash, clean a roof w/ no pressure, stain a deck, scratched glass repair, WFP usage, etc.

I think that you’re right, Chris. Most homeowners really don’t care about that kind of thing. They want someone who they believe they can trust to solve the problem that they have. As others have mentioned, this can be YOU, whether you have a certification or not.

The best example I have of this is what Glass Renu does. http://www.glassrenu.com/products.htm#cprog

They offer an 8 hour class that you have to pay to attend (can’t remember cost off-hand. Not ridiculously cheap or expensive, I think), and give you the certification at the end of the class. It is really for YOUR benefit, as a user, not just a Blah Blah Blah certification for marketing purposes.

Will a customer w/ scratched glass care if you have been certified or not? Probably not, as long as you can solve their problem. Will the certification be of value? Probably so, if you learned something from it… like how to solve the problem faster, and therefore make more money.

There’s my 2 cents.

PS - Glass Renu is a product manufacturer and distributor, so they make their money on selling their systems primarily. This makes me think that maybe the ideal people to do industry training would be for-profit distributing companies… Bob at PT, Michael at PW.com, WCR (for WFP stuff), and so on and so forth.

Good post Michael. When I was on the board of directors with the PWNA a few years back they had a rule when it came to teaching classes. The ones doing it were not allowed to promote any of there products at all during the class. The easy answer on that is because these classes can very easily be “sale pitches” and that’s what you don’t want. We were so on top of that back then that during the Classes a BOD would sit in and make sure there was non of that.

Certifications are all about learning to do things in a way that is considered “Acceptable”. The methods that are taught should be tried,true and tested and tested again. Certifications can be about what types of Equipment or what types of chemicals should be used like a hydroxide in stripping wood and a Brightner to bring back the PH. Those are all acceptable methods in the certification classes…but… They should never be about having to buy equipment from so and so and also using there chemicals etc… All that can be talked about outside of the class or when the class is done for the day or over…

But agreed Distributors along with contractors can be good teachers in any one of these classes if they can back it up as the "Tried and True "method is indeed true.

To actually get grants for education which is pretty much a pipe dream the next bunch of yrs in this Industry I would think the best bet to get that would be thru a “Non profit” more so then “For Profit” but this Industry is nowhere near that level yet even though some including myself like to yap about that happening one day… This Industry gets to that level then you’ll also probably see some sort of lobbying as well for this Industry… And for now it’s fun to dream;)

Well with the UAMCC pushing certifications super hard… It should be interesting to watch.

Please understand I am not saying anything negative about them or anyone… Im just saying it should be interesting.

Anyone else have any other thoughts on it?

whoever is pushing for certs is also charging for certs - thats the ONLY reason they are pushing for certs.

I don’t see certs from an org being any benefit because people outside of our industry don’t know the orgs, not to mention the orgs really are nothing more than contractors getting together to say “Hey look at us, we are now an org”. Realistically if I was good enough at web design and development I could create my own web page, including a certification section and just pick and choose who I wanted and the end user would be none the wiser, heck I could even put up pictures of different friends and give them names and that would be the board of directors. My point is it is just some made up crap with nothing behind it.

With that being said, I do believe that OSHA or MSHA are VERY good certifications to have, to even work on mine or quarry property at all you have to have the MSHA cert. If there is going to be some made up environmental certification then I think the EPA or who ever made the laws (DNR, locals) should be the one that has the ability to say “Hey so and so went through our class and took our test, they are now EPA waste water certified” The big difference is that these have teeth and LAWS behind them.

Other certifications that would make sense would be for individual products, for instance, Honda, so and so has been through our class on small engines and took our test, now they are Honda Certified for V-Twins. Or specific Waterfed Poles, or specific scratch removal systems or even specific chemicals or sealers.

No way that you could make just a blanket cert that says, WOW so and so is now a certified Power washer, we all know that there are waaaayyy to many different areas and specialties and so many different ways to do the same job to be able to accomplish that.

I just can’t see it happening or a need for it.

Good points Curtis

Im wondering if it would work better if they were super focused on a specific niche within pressure cleaning.

IE: wood restoration
flat work


Who knows Ill guess well see.

In my opinion there is a huge difference between something like OSHA certification (that is recognized by regulators and provides a tangible benefit) and certification by an industry (ANY industry) organization by and for its members. If you’re talking about “industry standards”, I looked into the ANSI-CAP process and it is way too expensive and in-depth for any small industry organization like pressure washing or window cleaning to afford it.

If you’re talking about education and proper techniques, then training has it’s place. I know of one company that is working on an internal employee certification process that is going to be a game-changer. I’m not sure if I can talk about it yet.

As far as telling your prospective client that a “certification” of that sort is anything more than a paid-for marketing tool (Wolman, anyone?) well…

For the last week I have been trying to look at the idea from an unbiased standpoint and get input from other respected professionals to try to see past my personal prejudices but the biggest hurdle so far is that hardly anyone agrees on what the purpose of these “certifications” even is.

Marketing tool?
Raise industry standards?

I’d say it’s more for marketing and also a way to show support to the organization.

I always thought about this and is it worth getting certified to do something. What if Joe blows washing homes for years and is looked to as a industry leader. He wakes up and says im going to sell a certifcation b/c you wash like i do after my 5 hr class. Congrats to getting some cash and a new shiny Certifcation.

What are you certifying? You know how to spray water on a house with some.soap and bleach and rinse it off?.

Some certifications make since. CPR,OSHA and others from the manufactor. I can see window cleaning makes since But getting certified to wash as house is a bunch of booty…


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