By Wesley Bleed

POU water cooler technicians can take advantage of a new training program and certification available through the Water Quality Association’s online Modular Education Program (MEP). The Certified Cooler Technician (CCT) certification is designed specifically for the type of work POU cooler technicians perform. Service techs are encouraged to get started now to be prepared to take the exam, which is expected to be available in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The difference between POU coolers and bottled dispensers
What are POU coolers? They are dispensers connected directly to an existing water supply, usually at a commercial location. They do not require replacement bottles of water, eliminating the costs associated with water delivery or the need to manage and schedule deliveries. Most units have some form of refrigeration to chill the water. In addition, some versions have a second dispenser for hot (and even boiling) water for making soups, coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Most units also come with their own water filtration system to remove chlorine or certain contaminants.

Something the industry has been asking for
According to Zenith Global Ltd.’s report in December 2016, demand for POU coolers is strong. Of the total market of nearly seven million POU and bottled cooler units installed in 2015, the POU market accounted for 1.5 million units, up 22 percent over 2014 (visit: www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/usa-water-coolers-report-2016-300374142.html). The new CCT is a prime example of responding to the needs of the industry. Companies in this fast-growing segment of the water treatment business have been asking for this new training and certification for several years.

With this new program, service techs will be able to boost their general knowledge of water treatment and focus on installation and service issues specific to POU coolers. The goal of the program is to raise the level of professionalism among cooler service techs and improve customer experience through a smooth installation process and fewer errors along the way. Service techs are not only called upon to install POU coolers, but to service them and provide customer training, as well. A cooler may become dirty enough to require disassembly and a thorough cleaning. Sometimes the reason for the service issue is harder to diagnose and requires methodical troubleshooting at the customer’s location. The tech is also expected to teach their customers about the system after installation. They should be prepared for basic water quality questions from their customers and know what resources to direct them to for more information.

The CCT difference
Cooler technicians have a good idea of how to do their job and the CCT is designed to make them even more proficient. The Cooler Technician Module of the MEP covers general installation principles for coolers and reverse osmosis devices, as well as troubleshooting common issues for coolers and associated treatment technologies. The training takes the service tech through a methodical step-wise approach to isolating the service issue onsite. The training also includes badges on installation safety, sanitation, pipe sizing and customer training.

The MEP path for cooler technicians also introduces common water contaminants and their effects, as well as drinking-water regulations and interpreting a water analysis. The training gives the cooler technician a well-rounded background to speak to customers with confidence about water quality and the application of POU water treatment. To become certified, the service tech will need to complete the MEP path for cooler technicians and then pass the exam. The MEP is a combination of e-learning and hands-on, in-field activities. The training begins with the focus on the cooler application and branches into more general water quality and treatment topics as the learner progresses. Engagement with supervisors is built in through the incorporation of a mentor reviewing some of the activities.

The education program is already available online. The Professional Certification exam for cooler technicians will be available by the end of the year, so service techs are encouraged to get started now to be ready to take the exam as soon as it’s available. Technicians can work on the program at their own pace and at three to four hours a week; the training can be completed in about three months. Anyone with questions should contact WQA’s Professional Certification & Training Department at education@wqa.org or call (630) 505-0160.

Certified water treatment professionals are individuals who have completed a voluntary credentialing process through WQA’s Professional Certification Program (https://www.wqa.org/Programs-Services/Professional-Certification). To become a WQA-certified professional, the candidate must complete the Modular Education training program, pass a comprehensive examination and accept WQA’s Code of Ethics for the water quality improvement industry. WQA’s program tests and certifies individuals, not dealerships or companies. Certified professionals are typically employed by WQA member companies, but WQA membership is not required for certification.

About the author
Wesley Bleed, WQA’s Marketing & Communications Director, holds a BA Degree in speech communication from Wheaton College. He has a wealth of experience in media, having spent 25 years as a broadcast journalist for WGN Radio in Chicago, IL. Bleed also served as Communications Director for a statewide campaign for governor as well as VP of a Chicago-area public relations/public affairs firm, providing media relations, crisis communications, media coaching and training, content marketing, video production and social media development. Professional Certification & Training Associate Advisor Kimberly Redden, MWS contributed to this report.

About the organization
The Water Quality Association (WQA) is a not-for-profit trade association representing the residential, commercial and industrial water treatment industry. WQA has been certifying professionals in the POU/POE water treatment industry since 1977.

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