NATE is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year, which is both exciting and bittersweet (I have been supporting NATE since the beginning, which means I am getting old!).


I am honored to have been selected as NATE’s 2016-2017 Board Chairman and I appreciate the opportunity to work with NATE COO John Lanier and the rest of the NATE team to continue to build upon the success NATE has experienced over the last several years.


As a distributor, our most proficient customers are those that have NATE-certified technicians and actively promote and support NATE within their contracting businesses. In my conversations with other Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) distributors, they too are aware of the benefits that well trained technicians provide in terms of better installations and fewer warranty issues. The challenge for all of us is how to increase the number of certified technicians so that the majority rather than the minority of industry technicians are NATE certified. Accomplishing that goal will pay benefits to all the industry stakeholders from the manufacturer to the consumer.


At the recent 2016 HARDI Annual Conference, NATE recognized nine HARDI member companies as top NATE Certifiers, for their outstanding efforts to promote NATE technician certification in the HVACR industry. HVAC Distributors is a 3-time winner of the NATE Certifier awards and I can tell you it is a great honor to be recognized for our support of the industry.


As any organization must assess, adapt and refocus over a 20-year time frame, so did NATE and I believe NATE is very well positioned for the realities of the industry. The new certificate exams and revised recertification program are being well received and our numbers continue to grow consistently. Nearly 1,000 of the Ready to Work and HVAC Support Technician certificate exams were taken since the exam launch this time last year, making them some of the most successful exam launches in NATE’s history. And since revising the recertification program in 2014 to a 2-year program requiring only 16 hours of technical training, NATE has seen the technician recertification rate nearly double. That means more technicians taking technical training are staying NATE-certified for doing so.


At the HARDI Annual Conference the year before, ACCA presented a great session on contractor attitudes on distributor relations and found that technical training was the third most important service that contractors seek from distributors, behind order accuracy, and price. Meanwhile, hundreds of NATE-certified technicians seek technical training to meet their recertification requirement of 16 training hours every 2 years. HVAC Distributors has registered over 30 our technical training courses for NATE-recognition and have found that promoting your courses as NATE-recognized can help meet your customers’ needs, while adding greater value to your services.


So I invite you to join me to #CelebrateWithNATE on its 20th anniversary, and consider what ways you can partner with NATE to provide greater exposure, education and testing opportunities. If you have any suggestions for how NATE can better serve the wholesaler community, feel free to pull me aside at a HARDI event or contact NATE at As NATE embarks on its next decade, I look forward to working with them and you, together to improve and grow the HVACR industry.


David McIlwaine is President of HVAC Distributors in Mount Joy, PA.

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