• Educating Europe: Silvia Uribe, international business manager for the National Swimming Pool Foundation, recently relocated to Brussels, Belgium. It puts her within proximity of European countries where the organization is raising the standards of aquatics education.

    Credit: NSPF

    Educating Europe: Silvia Uribe, international business manager for the National Swimming Pool Foundation, recently relocated to Brussels, Belgium. It puts her within proximity of European countries where the organization is raising the standards of aquatics education.

The National Swimming Pool Foundation has its first overseas ambassador.

Silvia Uribe, the foundation’s international business manager, relocated to Europe in March, where she’ll advance the nonprofit’s goal of certifying more pool operators worldwide.

For the past six years, Uribe has been responsible for extending the organization’s global reach from its Colorado headquarters. During that time, she racked up countless airline miles travelling to and from far-flung locales such as Dubai and Singapore.

Now living in Brussels, Belgium, Uribe is within several hours’ drive to France and a quick flight to the United Kingdom, among other European countries where NSPF training is making further inroads.

Uribe’s relocation marks NSPF’s latest effort in raising its Certified Pool/Spa Operator program to an internationally recognized standard for the aquatics profession.

NSPF has over 120 instructors conducting CPO courses outside the United States, and that number continues to grow, said Tom Lachocki, Ph.D, the foundation’s CEO.

In February, the organization launched websites in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama. The individual sites, which sell Spanish-language handbooks and training manuals, are tailored to each country’s culture and currency.

Uribe also oversaw NSPF curriculum through French and Russian translations, and currently is working on a Portuguese version.

Last year, the organization conducted its first CPO certification course in the U.K.

In July, it will host the World Aquatic Health Conference in Australia, making its first foray outside North America.

While many commercial swimming pools are tightly governed in the United States, few are as closely scrutinized in other countries. “Europe has super-high standards, especially in the Germanic countries, but we have many parts of the world where there are no standards at all,” Lachocki said.

NSPF is hoping to change that by raising the level of professionalism among pool professionals and guiding aquatics-related policy. Uribe worked closely with health officials in Colombia to pass a national law setting higher standards in pool construction in 2009. Spain also has toughened regulations recently, and Uribe’s native Mexico is considering doing the same. “That’s the trend – requiring training for pool operators,” said Uribe, who will add a fifth language to her repertoire as she adjusts to life in French-speaking Brussels.

But developing a certification program can be a daunting challenge in markets where there is little to no aquatics education. That’s why many foreign authorities are turning to NSPF. “They don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They don’t have to go through the trouble of trying to create a program,” Uribe said. “Our programs are based on science, and they’re proven and ready.”

Now with CPOs in more than 80 countries, the question begs to be asked: Will NSPF become the International Swimming Pool Foundation?

“When you have equity with a name, it’s best to stay with that,” Lachocki said.