ICS Magazine

Education and Certification: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

July 15, 2003
When it comes to education and certification in the cleaning and restoration industry, it is important to look at where we have come from, where we are now and where we are going. To say that we have come a long way from when I started in this industry 26 short years ago would be a gross understatement.

When I first became involved with the cleaning and restoration industry, we were just starting to deal with this new concept in home furnishing known as “wall-to-wall” carpeting. At the time we were using the same shampoo machine to clean carpets on location as we used in the plant. In- plant cleaning was most of what we did back then, focusing mainly on area rugs picked up from the homeowner’s residence.

There was very little formal education at that time; learning was accomplished mainly through trial and error. The only formal education you received was from the various manufacturers. At that time, “chemical” was not a bad word, training was slanted toward a particular supplier’s products and what was available came in a package reflecting more sales pitch than education. There were a few franchises around, but the education they provided was for their franchisees, not for independent cleaners and restorers.

Associations, for the most part, were just getting started. There were a few, but they were mostly local groups and not very wide spread. When associations finally came into their own, they were built on an education platform. The trouble was that, while you did get a pretty good education, there were “local” twists on it; there was no consistent standard of education. Most cleaners and restorers still had the mentality that there were “trade secrets” that you could not let anybody else know about. The only secret was that one cleaner was probably a little more educated than his nearest competitor.

Just about then, some open-minded people started to go around the country educating anybody that would come to their seminars. Associations started to have them speak at their conventions, and people flocked to them. Associations grew very quickly, because that was the only place that you could get a standardized education. In the early 1970s the IICUC, now the IICRC, came along and began teaching generic courses and offering certification, something new to the industry. The IICUC struggled along certifying people until the early 80s, when the associations began getting involved, purchasing stock and promoting it to their membership. There was finally a place to go to receive an education without a sales pitch! After that, the IICRC began to grow into the entity it is today.

Today, education is more important than ever. Consumers are much more concerned with what is happening in their homes and places of business. They are educating themselves, in turn requiring we in the industry to be more educated. Since the creation and involvement of the IICRC in the industry, more and more organizations are realizing the importance of consistent standardized education and certification. The IICRC has been working very hard internally, and with other organizations, to bring science to the cleaning and restoration industry.

Today, most of the carpet mills are requiring cleaners have some kind of formal education and certification before attempting to maintain their carpets. The furniture manufacturing industry is just now looking into requiring certification to do their warranty work. The soil protection industry has been requiring certification for quite some time now in order to provide their warranty work. The IICRC has also been working with the insurance industry, an industry that is starting to see the value and importance of having standardized education and certification as a requirement for those wanting to do their restoration work.

I have seen a turn in the industry over the last five to 10 years wherein more and more “professionals” are entering into the industry. With the downsizing of other industries there are people with college degrees starting cleaning and restoration businesses. They are looking for formal training because they already know that you need it to help you get ahead. Don’t think that I’m saying that we are a bunch of dummies; I never went to college, but I have made a very nice living in this industry. But as you can see, in the present economic and business environment, achieving a higher level of education and certification is becoming a must to be successful in the cleaning and restoration industry.

Certification has a bright future, in my opinion. We are all becoming more professional than our forefathers. This is only natural; we expect more from ourselves. I think you will see a collegiate atmosphere in the future of certification, a direction the IICRC is already heading in. There will probably be reciprocity with other education organizations. It has been stated before: “The Future is Ours.” We have the power as the professionals to make our industry second to none if we all work together.