Much like in any other industry, there are a number of specialized courses and certifications that members must keep current in order to claim status as a restoration professional, whether in water and fire restoration, mold remediation, air duct cleaning, or all of the above. There is also a large subset of even more specialized courses whose subject matter may cross over into all of these categories, such as Carpet Cleaning Technician, Applied Structural Drying Tech, Odor Control Technician, Commercial Drying Specialist, and so on. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) has for years been the standard in restoration-related educating bodies, leveling the playing field for all restorers with a common badge and title, indicating a certain level of knowledge and skills demonstrated. Likewise, the organization NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association) has written the standards and set the guidelines for excellence in Indoor Air Quality system maintenance, inspection and cleaning restoration across the country and the world. But are these badges really all it takes to become a professional restorer? We think not.
Over the years, we have found that an academic, certification-based training may not always be the best indicator of the level of professionalism we look for in our future technicians and project managers. Though our value for education is high, it’s still true that a student can ace every course even remotely pertaining to our work, while still having none of the key traits that would make them a professional in our eyes. A certain amount of on-the-job training is necessary, in order to see if our members are ready to carry the ECS badge and the title these courses afford them. There is a very specific and unique skill set involved in our work, and in the beginning, it has very little to do with hard facts . . .
One of the traits we look for in a future professional is sound judgment and the ability to adapt to a constantly changing work environment. In today’s world, common sense may not be so common, and sometimes the highest scoring students in a classroom environment may lack the flexibility of mind to translate their knowledge into a practical and effective solution on the job. We look for quick thinkers over high scorers, and the best way to see where someone stands in this spectrum is to give them enough experience in the field, following a leader until the leader feels it’s time to ask them what they would do in this situation. This approach, as opposed to a written exam, is a much better and earlier indicator of the skills we look for in a team member.
Restoration professionals are, in every case, detail-oriented. Our motto, “Better than Before,” means that we are a meticulous group of experts who enter each job with a keen eye and an attention to detail throughout the entire project. That is what keeps us focused on achieving the end result we have visualized from the start. A professional restorer notices the little details that make a huge difference in how the work is performed. Examples include noticing the slightest crack in a piece of crystal, a pre-existing scratch in a kitchen table, or evidence of termites found in a wall cavity while drying. A keen eye and the initiative to document and present findings immediately has always been a crucial factor in selecting our next candidates for certification and advancement.
Another skill we look for, and likely the most important, is the ability and willingness to communicate effectively to others. The restoration professional has the unique responsibility of translating their technical knowledge into a form that any homeowner can easily understand. They must be comfortable and capable of answering any concerns or questions while still getting the necessary work done in a timely manner. Though a certain level of education and training is necessary to answer specific questions about the services being provided, the technician must first be a service-oriented individual with a willingness to build a relationship of trust and mutual respect with each client. This focus on relationships has proven to far outweigh the need for communicating all of the hard science involved in the work that we do, and we look for someone who can demonstrate the emphasis on service by using the science to get the job done right and as quickly as possible, and to minimize further damage.
By the time our technicians are certified, we can be sure that their badge and their title is a true indication of their level of professionalism, because they have already demonstrated the traits of a professional restorer.
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