I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but in mine, it’s open house season in the groundwater business. Many of the groundwater product distributors hold dealer open houses at this time of year to thank their contractor customers for their business and give them an opportunity to purchase products and supplies for the upcoming busy season. The distributors usually offer special pricing at these events and it is not uncommon for contractors to purchase half of their annual product needs at an open house.
Part of every open house is the presence of manufacturer exhibits where the companies that supply the goods and services sold by distributors set up displays, and factory personal are available to answer questions and talk about new products. This is a great opportunity for contractors and installers to learn about the latest products and to see how they might fit into their business. It’s a chance for the guys in the trenches to learn a better way to do something or find a better pump or check valve than they are now using.
Even more than that, it’s a way to get “how to” questions answered from the experts from the factory. As groundwater contractors and installers, many of us learned our trade from our fathers, if it’s a family business, or from our boss. Our training has been on the job, so to speak, and may or may not have included formal training. These open houses offer an opportunity for us to chat with the factory experts, learn about the latest products and techniques and maybe learn a better way of doing something.
I’m a big advocate of continuing education in any field of endeavor, and particularly in the groundwater business. I think it should be mandatory for a contractor to have so many hours of continuing education every year to maintain his or her contractor’s license. Many states have this requirement, and their annual state groundwater conventions and trade shows are vital, exciting events because it is there that contractors can take the continuing education courses required to keep their licenses. I firmly believe that the level of professionalism in states that require continuing education is higher than in those that do not.
I live in California and continuing education is not a requirement for maintaining a groundwater license in this state. Our annual trade show and convention suffers from low attendance. It attracts a few dedicated contractors and a substantially larger number of loyal manufacturers and suppliers who support the trade association through exhibiting fees, despite weak attendance.
They have educational seminars at the California convention, but very few California contractors attend. I’ve given a number of seminars over the years and considered 20 attendees a good turnout.
By contrast, I was asked to do a seminar at the Mountain States Groundwater Association in Laughlin, Nev., several years ago and there were over 200 in attendance. It was standing room only, not because my seminars are anything special but because attendees needed to get continuing education points to keep their contractor licenses. And, hopefully, they all came away from my seminar with something they could use on the job to do a better installation for their customers.
I have done a number of pump related training schools over the last 20 years and I am appalled at the lack of basic knowledge I’ve encountered at these schools-a licensed groundwater contractor that doesn’t know the relationship between feet of head and PSI, or that it is important to set a submersible pump at a location in the well such that the well water flows past the motor to cool it on the way to the pump inlet. I’m not sure how these guys got their licenses, but I do know that they left my classes knowing the relationship between feet of head and PSI and where to set a pump in relationship to the well screen. I also know that a requirement for continuing education would go a long way toward raising the level of professionalism in our industry.
Why don’t states like California require continuing education? Some blame it on a lack of state funds to set up and administer such a program. Some say it’s the big contractors who don’t want to pay to send their employees to conventions to attend classes. Whatever the reason, it is time put pressure on the trade associations and contractor licensing boards in the states that do not require continuing education to step up and make it a requirement.
Whether or not your licensing authority requires continuing education to maintain your license, take every opportunity to expose yourself to new products and ideas, and to expand your knowledge base. Attend those open houses and state conventions. Plan a vacation around the National Groundwater Association Expo in Nashville next December and sign up for some classes at the convention. You and our groundwater industry will be better off for it.