ANSI Accreditation Solidifies NATE’s Reputation for Excellence
The North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is now an ANSI-accredited organization. ANSI, which stands for the American National Standards Institute, has served as the coordinator of the U.S. private sector, voluntary standardization system for more than 90 years. Now that NATE has achieved this prestigious accreditation, additional changes and improvements will be implemented to further strengthen the organization’s practices.
As part of the accreditation process, NATE underwent an independent, voluntary evaluation of its testing procedures. ANSI’s first site visit and audit of NATE took place in April 2011.
“The ANSI assessors reviewed all of our documentation and did identify some nonconformities and areas for improvement,” says Patrick Murphy, vice president of certification for NATE. “We submitted a series of corrective actions, which the assessors accepted. The assessors then forwarded the actions to the Personnel Certification Accreditation Committee (PCAC), which reviewed the final documentation, and took the final vote on accreditation.”
The accreditation confirms that NATE conforms to the standards of ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024: General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification Systems of Persons. Accreditation was granted for the air-side exams (air conditioning, air distribution, air-to-air heat pumps, gas furnaces and oil furnaces), and includes the installation and service information. NATE will pursue accreditation for the hydronics, refrigeration, efficiency analyst, and ground source heat pump exams in the future.
“Accreditation demonstrates that we are a high-quality certification body,” Murphy says. “The review process in itself was very rigorous and made us a better body. Accreditation will give the public assurance that NATE-certified technicians are highly trained and skilled professionals. It confirms for the industry that we have very detailed quality and testing processes that we follow, and that the results of our exams are valid, reliable, and defensible.”
According to Murphy, one of the items that the audit uncovered was the need to separate the training and testing functions. “We need a stronger firewall,” he says. “One of the results is that those who teach NATE preparation courses will no longer be able to administer the tests (i.e., serve as test proctors), as well.”
While NATE already examines data forensics on a quarterly basis through an independent company that flags any improprieties, NATE will now begin to audit testing locations and proctors more often. “If data, complaints, and/or auditing indicate problems, we will send advisory letters, warnings, and, if necessary, suspend or revoke privileges,” Murphy says.
What about the actual content of the exams? “That won’t be changing,” he says. “The statistical evidence we collect on exams is very good, and ANSI agreed with that assessment. It’s more about the little things, like the language at the bottom of the testing card. Things that say you agree this was your work, that you understand that the certification belongs to NATE, and if we decide to revoke it, we can.”
According to Murphy, the actual content on the NATE exams is closely monitored. Functions and formulas rate the degree of difficulty for each question and help assure that the passing scores are where they should be. Job task analyses have been updated and have proven to be good. What is a job task analysis? A statistical review of all the different things you need to know to do a job. The job task analysis helps assure that the information a technician needs to know is indeed on the test.
“We follow the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing for all content in the exams,” Murphy explains. “These standards are produced through a collaboration of three associations: the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education.”
Moving forward, NATE will continue to list at its website the names of trainers and testing locations. “We don’t warrant or guarantee the type of training, but if it meets our standards of quality, we list it at the site as a service to technicians.”
Knowledge and practical skills are necessary to pass the stringent NATE exams. There will continue to be no educational requirements for those seeking NATE certification, but NATE strongly recommends that anyone taking the test has some type of formal training provided by his or her employer, a technical school, or other learning institution.
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