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Pictured left to right: Jennifer Farwell, PSATC program director; Brian Duncan, PSATC education committee member; and Dan Edwards, PSATC marketing and communications director

The Apprentice

PSATC launches game-changing training program

The Pool & Spa Apprenticeship and Training Committee (PSATC) has launched what is being described as a cutting-edge workforce development strategy, says Jennifer Farwell, program director for PSATC. An apprenticeship program is an approach to workforce development and quality assurance through a formal organized system that combines online training and coursework (144 hours) with on-the-job training (2,000 hours) alongside a skilled mentor. “This curriculum is all geared toward the goal of achieving the highest level of training that will lead to appropriate credentials, recognitions and salary increases,” Farwell says.

The first-of-its-kind apprenticeship education and training program will be offered through PSATC’s Pool and Spa Apprenticeship Academy (PSAA), which has been approved by the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards, a critical step, Farwell adds, in establishing a fully sanctioned apprenticeship program. The inaugural class of apprentices began in early May 2021. After the successful launch in California, the PSATC recently received federal approval from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship, to move forward with its national apprenticeship program.

The committee and academy were created by a team of industry leaders, PSATC marketing and communications director Dan Edwards says, and the group’s vision was to develop a comprehensive education and training program for pool and spa service technicians and maintenance specialists — something that would equate to lifelong meaningful and fulfilling careers.

“Leaders throughout the pool and spa service industry have been asking for a program like this for many years,” Edwards says.

Brian Duncan, PSATC education committee member and owner of Picture Perfect Pool Services, Inc., in Martinez, California, shares this view. “We are so proud to have built a platform for education and training that will allow for steady professional enhancement of our industry,” Duncan says.

“Our program is the only fully sanctioned program in California that provides an all-encompassing approach with a high-quality and integrated curriculum,” Farwell says. “We have developed a comprehensive year-long curriculum to educate and train apprentices. It is a demanding series of coursework that will expose students to industry experts’ teaching according to current industry standard practices and technology.”

PSATC is currently approving employers to participate and enroll apprentices. To enroll as an apprentice, participants must have a high school diploma or GED/equivalent, must be able to identify colors, hold a valid California driver’s license with normal insurability and must pass a general aptitude test given by their employer.

“This is the gold-standard program for the pool and spa service industry — one that will confer on the best and the brightest top honors for success and high-quality service,” Edwards says.

Silvia Uribe, PSATC education director and chairman, says they’ve made sure to select the best industry resources and partnerships for the program’s lesson plans.

“We have partnered with a variety of industry and business interests notable for their experience in providing high-quality training and instruction in the curricular areas that are the lifeblood of our academy’s program,” Uribe says.

The 12-month comprehensive program includes 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training under the tutelage of journeyman mentors. All requirements must be completed to warrant the associated certifications.

The PSAA program will cover the following topics and certifications:

  • Certified Pool Operator
  • New pool start-up certification
  • Customer service
  • Business
  • Safety
  • Water quality
  • Structures and finishes
  • Circulation and filtration/hydraulics
  • Heaters and optional equipment
  • Control systems
  • Pump motors
  • Electrical set up
  • Local and ICC codes

Rich Gallo, CEO of Pure Swim located in Valencia, California, heard about the program through various industry associations and was eager to get involved. Six of his employees enrolled in the first PSAA classes.

“Our employees are excited,” Gallo says. “As a company, we all recognized that one of our biggest gaps has been training, especially during the pandemic. This is the most comprehensive, complete training program to give my team. It’s another cutting-edge [advantage] against all others, and ultimately my customers will reap the benefits.”

Steve Homer, PSATC secretary and president of the United Pool Association, says so far local interest and enrollment numbers have been incredible.

“We are thrilled to have so much interest in what we know is going to be a sustainable, outstanding program — one that will only grow and prosper as we recruit more participants,” Homer says.

Javier Payan, PSATC treasurer and president of Payan Pool Service in El Cajon, California, says he foresees years of successful graduating classes ahead. 

“This is the most aggressive workforce development effort I have been involved with, and I cannot wait until I can celebrate my company’s first program graduate a year from now,” Payan says.

Gallo is excited for his employees to gain additional skills and added on-the-job confidence. “I am a firm believer in having a raving fan culture for my employees first and customers second,” Gallo says. “Instilling high levels of confidence in my employees delivers straight to the customers.”

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