When I got my license 33 years ago, I was proud of it. The word “contractor” meant that you’d accomplished something. But nowadays people say “contractor” like it leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
In California, I think this has everything to do with the state of licensing. Once you get your contractors license, you’re set. There is no continuing education needed to keep current. You can go decades with no education and still keep your license.
Other states require continuing education. In those areas, the industry sees significantly more participation in the educational programs offered through trade associations and at conventions and conferences. As a result, they have contractors who are more up to date on all aspects of building pools and spas — and running a business.
That’s why the California Pool & Spa Association is speaking with the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to require a continuing education program as a condition for maintaining a pool contractors license. This industry offers plenty of options for learning, both in-person and online. It’s irresponsible not to keep in touch with changes — it can hurt customer satisfaction and even safety. So let’s have a continuing-education requirement.
Here are ways you, your clients and the industry benefit from continuing education mandates:
1. We’d significantly reduce the most common mistakes.
I’ve worked with CSLB for 20 years as an industry expert. When a complaint is filed, I evaluate the site and present my findings and opinion. In that role, I see the same mistakes made over and over again. These are easily avoidable errors like coping not being isolated from the deck, improper tile installation, or bad bonding practice. It hurts the whole industry when contractors make the same oversights repeatedly, sometimes damaging people’s homes as a result.
A mere eight hours of annual continuing education can help prevent expensive repairs, litigation and unhappy clients.
2. Stay up to date on business management topics.
We know that pool/spa companies are forced to close every year because management lacks the expertise or experience to properly run a business. They overextend themselves or don’t manage the money properly and might leave behind 20 to 30 unfinished pools. This happens when you don’t understand things like margins and markups.
Here, too, we have plenty of training available, which could easily qualify for continuing education.
3. Stay up to date on construction methods and techniques.
If you obtain your license and don’t follow up with continuing education, it’s harder to keep up on important issues like energy-efficiency improvements, waterproofing and glass tile installation. For instance, you might not have learned that certain waterproofing products are no longer recommended to use underwater. And through our designs, we need to keep up with certain hot-button issues, such as energy efficiency and water conservation.
But how does the word get out? Maybe your pump supplier or distributor. We need to move this information in a more timely, standardized manner.
4. Changing with the evolving state requirements for running your business.
The contractors requirements in the state are changing regularly — new laws come out every year. But your company won’t necessarily be notified individually. Some of these changes, like the font size to use on your contracts, can seem small and insignificant, but become problematic quickly: If your company is sued and you didn’t follow these laws and codes, your insurance may not cover you. Best to find out about these changes from a reliable source.
Some of these changes address very sensitive but critical issues, such as diversity awareness and sexual harassment. Without access to an HR staff, you may not find out about these in time.
We may see some pushback in our efforts to require continuing education. But we believe that this move would improve the whole industry — over time, it will help build our reputations as professionals.