by Valerie Stakes
During the past several years, contractors have increasingly seen the value of having certified technicians on staff as a means to not only ensure their knowledge and experience, but to further assure customers that the best and brightest are working on their equipment.
Last October, the Mechanical Service Contractors of America took this concept a step further when it unveiled the MSCA STAR qualification program for mechanical service contractors.
According to Barbara Dolim, executive director of MSCA, creating a contractor qualification program made perfect sense, particularly after the roll-out and implementation of the UA STAR program, which offers certification for experienced union technicians and journeyman apprentices alike.
"MSCA STAR qualification assures home and building owners and facility managers that their STAR qualified contractor is providing the highest level of skill, quality, value, and professionalism in the industry," says Dolim.
To qualify as an MSCA STAR contractor, applicants must meet several stringent criteria and submit supporting documentation. They include:
- Having a proven track record in the HVACR or plumbing service industry
- Having a minimum of 25% of current service technicians UA STAR certified
- Having a documented company service safety and health program and maintaining an outstanding safety record
- Providing on-going training to both field and in-house employees
- Having employees attend at least one MSCA-sponsored national or local program each year
- Having an established truck inventory control system and major tool inventory program
- Providing and requiring photo ID cards to be worn by all field personnel
- Maintaining the highest levels of customer service standards
- Being a member in good standing of the Mechanical Service Contractors of America.
"We feel that these program requirements are essential for service contractors to be successful," Dolim says. "If members take advantage of all the tools the association has to offer, such as training, publications, and our safety and tool inventory programs, they will have everything needed to become MSCA STAR qualified."
The association provides qualifiedcontractors with a marketing manual, along with sample press releases and newspaper ads (which can be personalized), door hangers, truck decals, logos, patches, and postcards. MSCA will also promote the qualified contractors on its website.
In addition to being a great marketing tool for contractors, MSCA STAR also encourages technician certification.
"We wanted to further motivate contractors to get their employees UA STAR certified. Currently, the program requires only 25% of their technicians to be UA STAR certified. As the program grows, we plan to raise this percentage," Dolim says.
Leading the Way
According to Dolim, member response to the program's unveiling has been enthusiastic.
"Our members are really excited. They tell us they want to be the first qualified in their city, which encourages a little friendly competition among the members to get there first,” she says.
One of the first contractors to earn bragging rights is Thermodyne Mechanical Services, located outside Chicago in Northbrook, IL. In addition to service, the company handles testing and balancing and small projects such as tenant build-out. Thermodyne is led by president Bert Miedler, who is currently chairperson of the MCA of Chicago’s Service and Maintenance Committee.
Employee education and training are top priorities for Thermodyne and, currently, all of its service technicians are UA STAR certified.
“Having UA STAR certified technicians demonstrates our commitment to an aggressive training plan, and proves to our customers that we really do have some of the best technicians in the business,” says Miedler.
The company also has an excellent fleet loss control program, as well as a top notch safety program for all employees.
Miedler plans on heavily marketing the MSCA STAR recognition in all company materials, and will place the logo on its trucks. “Our customers, both internal and external, have a lot of companies from which to choose; being MSCA STAR certified emphasizes our commitment to great service, and will also help us find and keep the brightest employees.”
Also being recognized is The John E. Green Company, located in Lansing, MI. Founded in 1909, The John E. Green Company is a fourth generation company, with offices throughout Michigan and in Tennessee. The Lansing service division office performs HVAC service, as well as plumbing, controls, fire protection, and building operations work.
Leading the division is Randy Potts, Green’s director of service operations and a graduate of MSCA's Mechanical Service Contractors Institute at Southern Methodist University.
“We wanted to achieve MSCA STAR qualification because the program’s strict requirements reflect what we strive to achieve in our company,” says Potts. The service division also plans to double its volume this year, and feels that marketing its MSCA STAR qualification will be a big part of achieving that goal.
In addition to making UA STAR certification a priority, all technicians attend training sessions every other month in addition to monthly service meetings. The company also supports a comprehensive safety and compliance program and strives to prevent injuries through training, inspections, and investigations.
“Being a successful service contractor requires truly being there for your customers, whether it’s educating them on how to take care of their equipment or designing individualized planned maintenance programs,” says Potts. “We also believe that many of our best ideas for improving services come from our customers.”