The Water Quality Assn.’s (WQA) Professional Certification program helps identify professionals who have demonstrated a certain expertise level. Water Quality Products Associate Editor Nicole Bowling spoke with Kelly Thompson, president of Moti-Vitality LLC, a provider of exam preparation, about why this certification is needed and how it benefits the industry.
Nicole Bowling: Why is WQA certification important for dealers?
Kelly Thompson: The short answer is that certification adds credibility to the company and its employees. The larger answer is that it helps raise the standards in the water quality industry. The certification exam and requirements are tough, and if someone has reached a level of certification, then they know quite a bit. This exam is like the bar exam for water quality professionals. You are not likely to pass and receive certification unless you have knowledge and familiarity with the industry, both practical and academic.
Most people in our industry have come from within, specializing in plumbing or well drilling and doing water treatment on the side for their grandfathers or fathers. These sons now run the companies, and since they grew up in the business, they never got formal training. All they know is what works. They have not had time to get certified because they are wearing a million different hats and they will bring people in who do not have certification either. So what you have are these owners and employees who are trying to serve their customers with integrity, but cannot do it because they learned the wrong things many years ago. Certification helps correct that.
Bowling: How does certification benefit dealers?
Thompson : The more dealers are able to serve their customers, they more they are going to prosper. The more involved all of us are in the industry, it is less likely that we will have people that do not always understand how the laws work and how legislation is affecting our industry. It basically comes down to this: If we are going to be the professionals, we are supposed to know more than our customers. That is why certification is important.
Bowling: How does certification benefit customers?
Thompson: I mentioned earlier that the certification process raises the standards in the water quality industry. Customers are served more effectively when water quality professionals have reached these certification levels.
Bowling: How does the certification process work?
Thompson: There is no minimum time in the industry required to take the certification exam. However, someone just starting out is not likely to pass because the exam tests practical and academic knowledge. Essentially, people just order study materials and prepare for the exam. In most cases, it takes about three to six months to prepare thoroughly, although I have seen people order the books and read them a month before the exam.
Bowling: What is the most challenging part of the certification process?
Thompson: The most challenging part is probably practical knowledge. Some people are not very good test takers and it is a very difficult test, but also, it is hard to transfer knowledge from the books. In Level 1 of the certification process, there are three required books: The Legal Considerations Handbook, Water Processing and Water Treatment Fundamentals. The last two are very tough to get through because they are like textbooks. Many people find it difficult to translate what is in the book to what they are doing in the field every day.
Also, many water quality professionals in administrative positions want certification, and while they may grasp academics, they do not have the practical knowledge required to pass because they are not in the field every day.
Bowling: What education opportunities are available to prepare for the certification exams?
Thompson: Many people just choose to order the books and study on their own—you can get significant discounts for being a WQA member. Others sign up for my webinars, which I created to help translate the academic knowledge to the practical.