Middle-skill credentials are defined as non-degree credentials, or education and training that’s “less than a baccalaureate.” Research shows that the return on investment in earning such credentials is on the rise, and we all know there’s a labor shortage at hand when it comes to skilled trades. Until recently, a meaningful credential just didn’t exist for the insulation industry as a whole. But it’s been a busy year for one ambitious organization, and things are starting to change.

One of the great champions of training for this industry is Cardice Howard, of Garland Insulating in Garland, Texas. “I can’t even imagine a company not investing in training and credentials,” she says. “As insulation contractors, we have to bring value to ourselves. We too often let the builder dictate our direction. In order to dictate our direction we (insulation contractors) have to be educated and trained. Builders will tell you that they generate sales by building a quality product. As an insulation contractor, we have to generate sales by installing a quality product. With the educated homeowner doing their own research, and the builder trying to meet and exceed building codes to compete, we need to focus on systems to meet the needs of the energy conscious homeowner and the builder trying to get a Grade 1 install.”

Garland Insulating earned their credential in 2014, within the first few months of program announcement.

Make Yourself Stand Out

There are countless training programs in the industry, and most of them are very good. But the abundance of training options has become overwhelming, confusing, and frustrating to the average contractor. If a company really wants to stand out as well trained in the use of high performance systems, where should they turn? Do they really want to earn a different credential for every product and every system through every different supplier and trade group they work with? Of course not. And furthermore they don’t really want their reputation and status tied to only one specific system or supplier. What’s been lacking is a unified system whereby builders, consumers, and related trades may identify an insulation contractor trained to offer the very best systems on the market, no matter whose materials they use or how they buy them. Customers need to be able to differentiate a quality contractor from product promotion, and know there’s more behind it than a quick product demo and a golf game.

“We’ve developed one of the most comprehensive training programs in the insulation industry,” says Steve Malon of Rapid City, S.D. “All members have access to this program, which very simply and effectively educates employees so that they may perform their jobs correctly and efficiently. This equates to higher profitability and repeat business as customers become convinced that you know what you’re doing. The bottom line is that better training makes you more money,” says Malon, who is not only a platinum member, but also a key piece of the equation serving as president, a lead trainer, and one of the committee members working on nationwide implementation.

HPIP partners CertainTeed, Johns Manville, Knauf Insulation, and Owens Corning have funded the development of these training modules to provide comprehensive training for insulation contractors, and a resulting credential the industry can refer to. Currently in its first full year of implementation, the credential gaining traction showing 246 modules and exams in play; with two thirds of trainees already advanced beyond the basics, including companies like Henges Insulation of Olathe, Kan. “As a business owner I am strapped for peak performance in every hour of every day. This program assures me that my guys get the proper training they need to do quality work without me taking it on, and that there’s a way we can be recognized for it. The training is a valuable tool that allows me to do my job while my guys are being trained by experts.”

Building Recognition

Contractors are now able to apply the knowledge earned through a host of different sources to one overriding credential that will recognize their level of expertise. That’s the beauty of this credential. Once certified in the HPIP core program, contractors will earn CEUs to maintain their basic, intermediate, or advanced level insulation credential. These CEUs may come from manufacturers, distributors, or other trade groups offering quality training. Several nonprofit partners such as RESNET are also offering viable coursework that would be eligible for accreditation. Even technical and trade schools and government programs are invited to the party. If it meets the high standards of the oversight committee, there’s no limit to the range of possible CEU sources an insulator can tap into to maintain their status and their place on the map.

The challenge is awareness. It takes time to build recognition, especially of something this comprehensive that’s set to change an entire industry. What will make a real difference to the industry will be the day that a thousand qualified insulation contractors are showing off their knowledge to the public through this unified credential. The contractors featured here, and around 30 other companies across the U.S. have already reached the upper levels of training and credentials. They’re working toward the day that builders and related industry trades will recognize the high performance credential and give true preference to the contractor who has gone the extra mile to earn it.

 How do you join the party? There’s good news for 2015 for any contractors interested in earning the HPIP credential. Key sponsors of the program have a bank of vouchers that essentially zero out the cost of earning the initial credential; normally around $1,925 per ticket. These vouchers not only earn the HPIP credential, but also the RESNET Energy Smart designation. A total of 800 vouchers over two years is valued at over $1.5 million dollars, and there are still plenty of them left. This offering helped launch the program in 2014, and these vouchers are good through 2015. Get in touch with your favorite supplier or manufacturer rep to get one for your company. You’ll be on your way to more visibility in the market, and higher profits in the end.