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Credibility is a wonderful thing. It’s not something that comes overnight, it is an asset that is gained after experience and education, both formal and on the job, and hard-won accomplishments.
In the professional and business world, credibility is everything. Credentials help broadcast your reputation. Some of the credentials available to you as an irrigation professional include certifications from the Irrigation Association: certified irrigation technician (CIT), certified irrigation contractor (CIC), certified irrigation designer (CID – ag and landscape), certified landscape irrigation auditor (CLIA), certified golf irrigation auditor (CGIA), certified landscape water manager (CLWM) and certified agricultural irrigation specialist (CAIS).
We asked some irrigation contractors that have some of these initials after their names what being certified has meant to them and their businesses and how the time and effort they put into studying has paid off.
Walter Mugavin, CIC, CLIA, owner of Aqua Mist Irrigation, South Hackensack, New Jersey, says that having IA certifications and the knowledge he gained through studying for them has given him more gravitas. “We deal with about 13 different engineering firms and some landscape architects, and being a certified professional brings us a better level of respect from those other professionals,” he says.
Mugavin only does large commercial projects and says certification gives him an edge in the bidding process, especially because some plans require a certified contractor.
“I encourage people to do it just for their own education and edification, because you need to be able to talk about irrigation and be 100% knowledgeable,” says Mugavin. “When I go in front of a bunch of engineers and they throw questions at me, I know the answers, and that’s all because of the studying I did for the certifications.”
For Carlos Medrano, CLIA, maintenance department manager at CoCal Landscape, Denver, “IA certifications are important to our company. They convey professionalism and give you accreditation when you’re bidding on jobs and going after contracts.” He encourages his employees to become certified as CITs and CICs.
Studying for certifications also enhances your professional development. It’s done that for Andrew Gray, CID, CLIA, owner of Andy’s Irrigation LLC, Portland, Oregon.
“It’s definitely helped my career,” he says. “The training I received through the IA has explained a lot of the reasons why we do the things we do in the irrigation business. I’m far better able to translate the new system technology that’s coming out to a homeowner or even to a landscape architect, many of whom are not CIDs. A lot of the drawings I’ve gotten from landscape architects I’ve really had to just scrap and start over.”
He recently finished a job for a chain of hospitals in which each system installed had to be redesigned because the landscape architects he was working with weren’t trained in irrigation design or the importance of irrigation efficiency. They didn’t know about different techniques that can be used to save water, like using check valves or installing drip instead of spray for shrubs.
Gray says his redesigns cut the client’s water bill by 40% “just by using the right components. When you’re talking about 30 million gallons a year, that was a pretty significant savings.” He credits his ability to do that to his certification studies. “Thanks to the IA, I understand how these controllers work and the metrics they use. It’s helped me be a better technician and a better business owner.”
He adds, “I strongly recommend getting certified to anybody that’s not an absolute beginner. If you’ve got a couple years in, you can really gain tons of knowledge through the IA classes because they have great instructors and great content in the classes.”
Each of these contractors has fostered a culture of continuous learning within their companies. Mugavin uses the off-season downtime of about 10 weeks to focus on training sessions, he says. “We bring the guys in and go over what went right and what went wrong last season, look at new technologies and better methods of doing things.”
Encouraging education with employees also helps them develop a curiosity to pick up more new techniques and industry knowledge, Mugavin says. “There are always new irrigation technologies, new products and better methods of installation. The more the guys know, the more they can do and the more we can accomplish as a company. You can never stop learning.”
The Irrigation Association offers its certification exams throughout the year. Computer-based testing is offered at hundreds of testing centers across North America and internationally. Availability has been limited due to COVID-19, but those interested should check the Certification section on the IA website at www.irrigation.org for the latest test center availability. Certification exams are also scheduled during the annual Irrigation Show and Education Week.
For more information about IA certification or how to register for an exam, go to http://www.irrigation.org.
This article was originally published in Irrigation & Green Industry.