The Water Quality Assn. (WQA) recently overhauled its certification and education program to focus on the real-life activities that dealers perform everyday. Water Quality Products Managing Editor Kate Cline recently spoke with Tanya Lubner, WQA’s director of education and certification, about the new program and how it will affect members.
Kate Cline:Describe the new modular education program. What are the benefits of the new structure?
Tanya Lubner: The new program completely changes the way WQA delivers its distance educational materials and increases the effectiveness of that material in improving job performance. The education will be delivered through a series of bite-sized online courses, self-study and experiential activities that blend real world problem solving with targeted background reading. By leveraging technology and cutting-edge learning strategy, the new program will deliver more effective training and education that will help employees develop competency and expertise faster than traditional methods.
Cline: How does it differ from the former education structure?
Lubner: WQA’s previous education consisted of formal learning through textbooks. While the textbooks provided a wealth of technical background information, they were missing instruction and examples of practical applications. This is fine for higher education, but it’s not an efficient method for an employer to help personnel achieve competency and expertise in their jobs. The better approach is a deliberate combination of formal instruction and on-the-job activity, which is what the new program accomplishes. The new program takes all the great information in the textbooks and links it to practical examples, both in online courses and in the self-study/experiential activity formats.
Cline: How will the experiential learning activities improve the learning experience?
Lubner: The experiential learning activities are key in reinforcing the application of the background technical information to the learner’s on-the-job activities and the problems and questions they address in the field. In addition, the experiential activities require that a mentor — often a more experienced person within the learner’s company or a willing tech support person from the company’s vendor — approve the learner’s answers. This interaction allows the mentor and the employer to be sure the learner is getting the right information and helps monitor the learner’s progress. For the learner, having the interaction with the mentor helps him or her to learn the right information the first time, without wasting time on trial-and-error learning that can be costly in terms of time, repair efforts and the company’s reputation. We have been pilot testing the mentoring aspect of the program and the response we have received from the learners, the mentors and the employers has been tremendously positive.
Cline: How will current certification levels change?
Lubner: The basic certification levels — Certified Installer (CI), Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Sales Representative (CSR) — will remain largely unchanged, with the exception of the CSR being retitled to Certified Water-Treatment Representative (CWR). What will change is how candidates prepare for the exams. The certification exams are meant to gauge not only accumulated knowledge, but also the application of that knowledge to on-the-job activities. This is why those who only study the textbooks without any field experience usually do not do very well on the exams. Beginning in March 2015, completing the Basics, Fundamentals and appropriate Core curricula will become a prerequisite for examination. This will help ensure that the certification candidate gets the necessary field experience. It also will make preparing for the exam a less overwhelming prospect.
Cline: How will those currently certified be affected?
Lubner: As of March 2015, we are going to be grandfathering existing certificants into the adjusted certification titles. CIs and CWS-Is will retain their titles. CSRs also will retain their titles, but will be renamed CWRs. We feel the CWR title better reflects salespeople’s water treatment expertise than CSR does.
Anyone who is a CWS-V or -VI as of March 2015 will be grandfathered into Master Water Specialist (MWS). The CWS-II through -IV titles will be discontinued. Those title holders will become CWSs. Anyone currently holding CWS-II through -IV has until March 2015 to take the necessary specialty exams to become a CWS-V and get grandfathered in as MWS. After March 2015, they will need to complete the Advanced curriculum to be eligible for the MWS title.