Running a water business is easy…you just need the right people, with the right knowledge representing the right products to the right clients who know and appreciate the value of your offerings. Unfortunately, while the list is simple, it is the execution that is so very hard, and is the very essence of what separates expensive hobbies from successful businesses. Our industry is filled with some of the most enthusiastic, innovative and proud people that I’ve ever met, but a common frustration when coaching them to success is the difficulty they have in hiring people with the skillset that they need. Since our industry is young and filled with massive amounts of rapidly advancing technical information, there are no effective educational programs available at traditional degree-granting institutions. Instead, aspiring water specialists tend to learn from manufacturers, consultants and other experts in the industry who act as mentors to them. Small-business owners struggle to find the time to train their employees on the basics of water quality management, since there’s rarely the time of energy left to be a trainer in addition to owner. WQA has long provided sales, service and design certification standards and textbooks to help quantify and recognize knowledge benchmarks. The certifications have certainly brought our industry forward and help motivate people to learn. But many dealers have experienced difficulty in budgeting the time off for themselves and their employees to read books and take proctored tests, so consequently, people take far longer than they need to in acquiring the skills they need to be a more valuable asset to their organization.
If you had a pulse in the last six months, you have most likely heard or read about WQA’s new Modular Education Program (MEP). The MEP is a breakthrough in helping water specialists and their support staff acquire the knowledge, training, and credibility that they need to be recognized as local water experts. In my travels, as I talk to dealers about this exciting new program, some express concerns or hesitancy, because they don’t quite understand how it works. This article will help you understand how to use this resource to benefit your dealership.
Out with the old
The MEP replaces the old WQA certification program completely, and anyone with current certification already has a place in the new hierarchy. As of April 2015 (in North America; 2016 internationally) those holding the titles of CWS-V and CWS-VI will be known as Master Water Specialists and those holding the titles of CWS-I-IV will be known simply as Certified Water Specialists. All Certified Water Specialists will be able to work through the advanced curriculum of the new MEP program to earn the Master Water Specialist title. Current Certified Installers (CI) will retain their title and can work their way through the MEP program to Certified Service Technician and from there to the prestigious Master Service Technician Certification. Current Sales Representatives (CSR) will be retitled as Certified Water-Treatment Representatives (CWR). They too will be able to pursue any other core certification title through the MEP. All of your previous knowledge and experience will help you progress faster and further than ever before.
Knowledge base – vast and always growing
Cornerstone to the MEP is a vast online knowledge base, accessible 24/7 from your desktop computer or the handheld device of your choice. Think of this knowledge base as the water industry’s equivalent of a water Wikipedia. You can access all the information in the archive, regardless of your certification level, without any extra cost. The information is constantly being updated with text, audio and video by subject matter experts, so you’ll have access to the best information as quickly as possible and have confidence that it is current.
In with the New
Instead of buying a bunch of books and hoping for the best, you simply subscribe your company into the program and enjoy as much learning as you can handle without extra cost or hassle.
Figure 1: MEP curriculum outline
The MEP includes Foundational, Core, and Advanced categories of training and certification. This smart structure allows a broad-base of participation, where everyone in the dealership can be involved in learning together and be recognized with badges for their knowledge and experience. Office staff, installers, technicians, designers, and sales people all have something to learn.Anyone in your organization who is subscribed under the MEP program can learn anything at any time, regardless of the level of information and whether you want to be officially certified or not. This is truly visionary, since you’re not constrained by prerequisites when you’re looking for a piece of valuable information to help you with a project or customer inquiry. Obviously, if you want to earn a badge for a particular area of knowledge, you need to learn and prove knowledge of the segment in the sequence that WQA requires. Badges are earned by completing lessons, and sometimes completing practical tasks to demonstrate the knowledge and mastery of a subject.
In addition to individual badges, you and your employees can also follow multiple education tracks that can result in core certifications:
- Certified Water Treatment Representative – for office staff, sales and marketing personnel
- Certified Water Specialist – for system specifiers and designers
- Certified Installer – equipment installers
- Certified Service Technician – for service technicians
You can change your educational path at any time and you can study anything that you want, just make sure that you fulfill the minimum requirements and then take the appropriate test to earn each certification that you want. The most exciting thing about the MEP is that it is not just a stuffy academic experience aimed at system designers; it is a holistic approach that benefits you and your employees with interactive experiences and proficiency tasks to be performed under the supervision of a trusted mentor. Mentors can be found inside your organization or from external consultants and manufacturer’s representatives. The mentor’s role is to ensure that you’re learning as much as possible through the program and that you are exposed to the best information while validating your learning experience. This further serves to improve your knowledge and perspective of the industry.
Our industry is progressing faster than ever before, it is critical to keep up with the latest training and best practices to ensure that you stay relevant in today’s marketplace. The MEP allows any dealership of any size to train ALL employees in the basics to ensure that you move closer to success. The most exciting thing about the MEP that a lot of people don’t realize, is that you can actually participate now. You don’t have to wait until the May 2015 deadline! Dive in now at www.wqa.org/mep or call (630) 505-0160 for more information.