Forward Motion: Career Path Options with the New Home Energy Professional Certifications
August 28, 2012
A version of this article appears in the September/October 2012 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
The green building community is sold on the value of certifications. For the worker, professional credentials demonstrate a degree of knowledge and skill. They help employers screen applicants and help energy efficiency program administrators set criteria. They give consumers added confidence when selecting someone for a project.
And yet, throughout the blogosphere you hear that telltale muttering, “I’m certified. Now what?” Or even more concerning, “Am I going to have to throw away the certifications I have now and start over?” Simply put, no. What you have now has a purpose and an established place in the market. As you build upon your skills, knowledge, and experience the question becomes "What next?" That is, what will help you grow your personal career or business?
Certification itself is not the end game but really the first step. It’s an entry point on the journey toward a successful career. And it is precisely that career path model that is behind the development of the new Home Energy Professional certifications offered by the Building Performance Institute, Inc. (BPI) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
BPI introduced these four advanced certifications in a pilot phase this summer and will follow with a nationwide rollout later this year. Together with BPI’s existing certifications held by tens of thousands of professionals throughout the country, the new certifications help to define a career path in home performance contracting. The new certifications—Home Energy Auditor, Retrofit Installer, Crew Leader, and Quality Control Inspector—satisfy the demands of both the Weatherization Assistance Program and the home performance marketplace for a skilled workforce with proven experience.
The Home Energy Professional certifications will not replace existing BPI certifications; rather, they will build on and complement the current credentials. Our Building Analyst, Envelope, and Air Leakage Control Installer certifications play an important role in weatherization and home performance, as do our Heating, Air Conditioning/Heat Pump, and multifamily designations. They will continue to deliver valuable skill sets to the market and to programs in the years ahead.
The Home Energy Professional certifications will not replace existing BPI certifications.
So just what are the new certifications?
Energy Auditor is tailored to verify the diagnostic and analytical skills required to perform an energy audit, including software modeling skills and work scope development, tasks not currently covered in the Building Analyst certification.
Retrofit Installer is geared toward experienced technicians with a broad range of installation skills and experience, including windows, heating systems, air sealing, and insulation.
Crew Leader is intended for experienced professionals who supervise the implementation of retrofitting activities specified in the scope of work, as well as work site health and safety.
Quality Control Inspector is designed for individuals who validate and verify that work was done correctly, whether as part of a contracting company’s internal QC process or as a true third-party QC inspection conducted on behalf of a government or utility energy efficiency incentive program.
It should be noted that the four new certifications are not designed for rookies to the home performance game. All four contain experience prerequisites. Each certification requires the individual to prove he or she has spent time in the field doing related work.
That’s an important point of differentiation, not only for the individual who gains the certification, but also for the employers, program administrators, and consumers who get to choose who goes into the home to conduct the audit and do the work. Experience speaks volumes when it comes to reducing risk and building trust. Having the DOE’s support and the rigor of ISO 17024 behind them adds even more value to the new Home Energy Professional certifications.
So how do these advanced certifications benefit each of these groups? Most importantly, it’s about differentiating from competitors. For the individual, that differentiation means increased job opportunities and job security, and a higher level of professionalism. For employers, differentiation means a higher-quality workforce doing quality work for happier customers, leading to reduced callbacks, improved satisfaction, fewer emergency replacements and more referrals—not to mention a marketing edge when speaking with homeowners. For program administrators, the verification of skills and experience adds up to reduced liability.
And for the home performance community, the Home Energy Professional certifications—and all the experience they entail—are the next step in the evolution of a recognized, self-sustaining, thriving, and credible industry.
What might a career path look like with these new opportunities?
If you have your Building Analyst (BA) certification and meet the experience prerequisites, when it is time to renew, you might choose instead to upgrade your credential to the new Energy Auditor certification. Or, you might choose to earn the new QC Inspector certification, or retain your BA certification.
If you have your Air Leakage Control Installer certification and meet the experience prerequisites, the logical next step may be to earn the Retrofit Installer certification. And perhaps later make the leap to Crew Leader.
If you hold a BA, Building Envelope (BE), Heating or AC/Heat Pump certification, your diagnostic experience makes you a prime candidate for the new QC Inspector certification. Your skills, knowledge and abilities may also hold you in good stead as a Crew Leader.
For details on the new certifications, go to www.bpi.org/pilot.
There is also a lateral path between the four new certifications. An Energy Auditor may move sideways as a QC Inspector. A Retrofit Installer may shift over to become a Crew Leader.
The point here is to allow individuals to broaden their horizons within the home performance field, and to build on their skills and experience over time. The Home Energy Professional certifications are truly meant to help you take your career to the next level.
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