BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — I have been reading in the last couple issues of CONTRACTOR newsmagazine the letters pro and con on the licensing issue. What I see as the big final way to solve this ongoing debate is as follows: Make it a federal license to do plumbing and HVAC, period. All states!
Who would benefit from this? Every consumer.
This would take out the politics of the present system, and all the grandfathering, with an end result of some control of who is in this business. Also, we would have a review board to handle customer complaints.
You would have to take and pass a written test and a practical test. You would have to be a full-time business, with proof of insurance and have mandated CEU credits every year of ongoing education in the field.
With this system, everyone would be on an even playing field. And last but not least, every wholesale house would be 100% restricted to selling HVAC and plumbing equipment to only licensed professionals, including the related repair parts! Most supply houses are hungry for the dollar and will sell to anyone!
At this time there is a local municipality that will not license another plumber because it has enough plumbers, and it doesn't want to split up the pie on who can make money in that town. This is politics at work!
You have wholesalers who will sell to part-time "HVAC" people or homeowners, taking money off the table of full-time HVAC/plumber tradesmen. As a past code inspector with more than 20 years in the field and a college degree in fire safety, I have seen it all.
I have been in the trades more than 40 years. Ten years ago, I went back to school, a two-year HVAC/plumbing trade school, and finished with a 98% final average. No, I was not a good test taker; I had to do the practical exam as well.
So why do I want to work under another company for 10 years to be able to take a plumbing license test? There sure are pros and cons to licensing, but the bottom line is this: Our industry needs a standard; our whole industry needs a revamping.
Will we ever see it? Not in our lifetime.
At least the HVAC end of our industry is on the right track to implement North American Technician Excellence and other certification programs. We had to start somewhere.
One thing to remember: Why did the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ever come to be? Simple. Employers were not looking out for the well-being and safety of their employees, so the federal government stepped in and took care of that issue.
After seeing what happened at the state and federal level with Hurricane Katrina, I am not too sure I would want to see what would happen in our industry.
As a final point, there is no pro or con to this issue; our industry needs to improve its image by better performance, quality, value, profits and salary. The tough part is we can't police out the bad apples that are out there; current licensing or not will not solve this problem.
I see this on a daily basis in my current position, as a field technical service adviser for a large New York state HVAC/plumbing wholesaler, which, by the way, will not sell heating, cooling or water heaters to homeowners!
In my prior position as a code inspector or even today, I embrace and praise the high quality of work performed by licensed or nonlicensed " professionals" in our trades. We need to come together to understand the views of both parties and move on to building better relations among all of us.
We are all in this together to prove that we are true professionals. Bashing each other is not the answer.