In managing the NWFA Certified Professional program, I hear a lot of questions from students. Why should I earn an NWFA certification (or certifications)? What is the value of an NWFA certification to my employer and to me? Why is the path to certification so challenging? An NWFA certification is a readily recognized benchmark mapped to a specific skill set. A certification demonstrates your professional dedication, motivation, and technical knowledge. Once you earn an NWFA certification, you join a select group of individuals – a peer group with demonstrated skills. The NWFA offers the following certifications:
All of the NWFA Certified Professionals must sign the Code of Professional Conduct. This agreement ensures anyone holding an NWFA Certification acknowledges and abides by the Code, and is held accountable to it through the complaint process.
To become a Certified Installer (CI), you must have a minimum of three years of experience as an installer, complete all of the installation courses featured on NWFA University (NWFAU), and complete the hands-on test, which is proctored by a certified member.
Similarly, to become a Certified Sand and Finisher (CSF) you must have a minimum of three years of experience as a sand and finisher, complete all the Sand and Finish courses featured on NWFAU, and have successfully completed the hands-on test proctored by a certified member.
To maintain these certifications, it is mandatory for the mechanic to earn three continuing certification units (CCUs) per year. These units can be acquired in several ways, such as attending NWFA educational events, webinars, and featured courses on NWFAU. Obtaining CCUs ensures that the certified professional is kept up-to-date with the latest tools and techniques in this rapidly changing industry.
The benefit of earning one or both of these certifications is that it separates you from your competitors. Earning a certification in your designated trade says a lot about you. It tells your customers that you consider your trade a career and not just another job. It says that you’re willing to invest in yourself to expand your knowledge and improve your skills to consistently produce better work.
A certification can help you gain market share with desirable clientele. There are many contractors and homeowners who believe in the importance of having certified tradespeople working for them. They understand the value of hiring well-trained workers and will pay more for a certified professional. Certified professionals are listed in the online NWFA certified professionals directory on the NWFA consumer website, woodfloors.org, which makes it easier for prospective clients to find them. They are also listed at the top of the online search page based on their credentials and engagement in continuing education. The best part is that the consumer is able to click on your displayed badges and certifications to read about the requirements necessary to earn them.
Many manufacturers and architects recommend using NWFA certified professionals in their guidelines. Specifying certified professionals is gaining popularity because it is viewed as a way to minimize the number of claims that occur as only wood flooring professionals with proven competence are on the job.
Certified Sales Advisor (CSA) is the latest certification that the NWFA has introduced. This certification helps to educate your sales or design staff to specify materials that will suit the customer’s needs, educate the customer on proper maintenance procedures, and set reasonable expectations of how the floor will perform post installation. This program was developed to address a growing number of claims due to failures that occur at the point of sale. Specifying the appropriate materials and setting reasonable expectations will drastically reduce the number of claims. To achieve a sales certification, you have to complete all of the sales courses on NWFAU, and maintain a sales certification by earning three CCUs per year.
Certified Wood Floor Inspector (CWFI) is one of the most difficult certifications to achieve. To become a certified inspector, you must complete all of the NWFAU education courses and attend the NWFA hands-on schools. The hands-on schools that are required are Basic Installation, Basic Sand and Finish, Intermediate Installation, and Intermediate Sand and Finish. (The Basic level schools are not mandatory if you have three or more years of experience as a wood flooring mechanic.)
Following attendance at the hands-on schools and completion of all the training courses, you are eligible to attend the NWFA Inspector School and take the inspector exam. The inspector exam has 300+ multiple-choice questions that must be completed in four hours or less and will be placed in NWFAU this year. The primary focus of this exam is on technical knowledge, and the student must achieve a score of 75 percent or greater to pass. The inspector school is held once a year at the NWFA headquarters in St. Louis. It’s a five-day course that focuses on information gathering and report writing. During this class, the students are required to perform inspection scenarios on mock-ups, learn how to gather the necessary information, then learn how to write reports based on the information they were able to gather. These reports are then graded and, if the scenario reports are deemed acceptable, the student has fulfilled all the testing requirements. Certification is awarded after the student has passed all of the testing requirements and their first three contracted inspection reports are graded and accepted.
To maintain the inspector certification, an inspector must earn three CCUs per year and send in one inspection report per year for review. These inspection reports are graded the same way as the scenario reports, and if the report does not meet acceptable standards, the report must be rewritten and resubmitted with the corrections added.
NWFA Certified Inspectors are recognized as being the most qualified inspectors in the wood flooring industry, and they are in great demand. Many manufacturers insist that NWFA Certified Inspectors be contracted when an inspection is required. As with all aspects of our industry, we are in great need of new qualified inspectors to fill the shoes of those retiring or leaving our industry.
The NWFACP certification programs were developed to recognize and promote competence of wood flooring professionals throughout the industry. Earning any one of these certifications helps to validate your industry knowledge and expertise. Being recognized as a true expert in your field sets you apart and increases your ability to profit from the expertise you have rightfully earned.
Kjell Nymark is Technical Advisor at the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis. He can be reached at email@example.com.