The National Plasterers Council has taken its start-up certification program on the road.

Unveiled at the group’s 22nd annual national conference in early February, the day-long course was among the showcases of the three-day event held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in the North Florida resort town of Amelia Island.

The gathering of more than 350 industry professionals also featured exhibitors, various educational and product-specific seminars, a keynote address, and a popular golf tournament. 

“There was a very upbeat, positive mood around the conference,” said Mitch Brooks, executive director of the NPC in Port Charlotte, Fla. “Our first-ever start-up certification program in particular was very well-received. And because it’s still a pilot program, we saw where we could make some tweaks and strengthen it even further.” 

Two years ago, the NPC introduced Swimming Pool Start-Up Procedures, a water-chemistry and maintenance procedures guide developed under field-tested conditions at the National Pool Industry Research Center at the California  Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Since then, the group has put together a five-pronged certification course that includes pool-surface chemistry, use of test kits, and start-up problems and solutions, among others.

The program was rolled out at the show, but will be offered through early May at locations across the country.

The conference also featured a number of educational seminars that addressed everything from pool torching to remove stains, to petrographical and chemical analysis, to the latest requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“A common theme was staying ahead of the curve,” Brooks said, “whether it was marketing, or finding additional sources of revenue, or managing finances, or helping to combat the underground economy.”

First-time attendee Ken Whitlow said he benefitted from the conference in more ways than one. Though he’s been in the industry since 1976, the owner of Watercolors, LLC, in Norcross, Ga., found the classes on pool chemistry and torching particularly useful.

He also appreciated the opportunity to network with fellow professionals from different areas. “You learn from other people’s experiences,” he said. “It gives you the chance to meet other plasterers and find out what they charge for certain services, or how they handle a certain type of problem. That interaction was definitely useful. And I think it also adds a level of professionalism to the industry.”

Chris Myers, another first-time NPC conference-goer, was equally impressed by the show’s emphasis on training and educational offerings.

“It exceeded my expectations in terms of the level of expertise, which was second to none,” said Myers, owner of Eden Swimming Pools and Landscaping in McAllen, Texas. “Everybody who’s there is the elite in what they do, and they’re all trying to pick up whatever they can as far as knowledge.”