Los Angeles County pool pros take the exam for their technician certification.
LA County Department of Health Los Angeles County pool pros take the exam for their technician certification.

Los Angeles County will likely bid adieu to its apprentice pool service technician certification.

The certificate, issued by the county’s department of public health, allows apprentices to maintain public and private pools throughout Los Angeles County under the supervision of a fully certified technician.

But the program may be on its way to the chopping block, said Nick Brakband, chief environmental health specialist. A decision hasn’t yet been made by the county board of supervisors, but Brakband said it’s likely the board will agree to discontinue the certification. Once that happens, current apprentices will have two years to take and pass the pool service technician exam administered by the county. In doing this, they’ll become fully certified, allowing them to operate independently.

In the county, the apprentice program has been viewed as an entry-level way to get into the pool industry. To become certified, applicants must take a simple test to demonstrate basic pool-care knowledge. Professionals say it’s considerably easier than the full exam.

The problem, as the county sees it, is that there are not enough apprentices to justify the program. Most applicants opt to become fully credentialed. There are more than 2,000 certified service technicians and only 72 active apprentices in the county, Brakband said. Plus, many apprentices weren’t advancing to the next level. And there was concern that some apprentices were performing tasks outside their scope, such as making repairs and replacing equipment.

Is scrapping the program a good thing? The industry is mixed. Some see it as a way to raise the bar of professionalism by forcing legitimate techs to attain the higher-level certification, while others fear it will discourage techs from earning their certifications, breeding more unlicensed contractors and making it difficult for firms to hire entry-level help.