With a new initiative and two new hires, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals is seeking to boost its online-education game and lead the charge in solving the labor shortage.
It also plans to increase representation and services in a state where it has long been largely inactive.
In June, APSP committed to a $1.3 million investment in education and training initiatives meant to help attract qualified workers to the industry. Online courses will play a major role in this line-up.
Despite the strengthening economy, studies indicate that younger adults simply aren’t interested in construction-related fields for reasons that go beyond pay and hard work. APSP found this in speaking with millennials, said Jack Manilla, the association’s chairman.
“They look at our industry not necessarily as a career path, but as a temporary summer job,” he said. “We felt we needed to respond with a strong educational program to train people for our industry and develop a career path, so they can see a whole career of coming into the industry.”
The association signed on with Hanley Wood (PSN’s parent company) to deliver its certification courses online. The collaboration is expected to produce brand-new classes as well, with videos, interactive exercises and quizzes.
APSP will not restrict the new educational initiative to online courses, Manilla said. “It’s a revamping of our whole educational training system,” he said. “It’s a combination of online, blended and live.”
The new courses are expected to cover commercial work as well as residential.
The moves come on the heels of a failed merger attempt with the National Swimming Pool Foundation, which itself has been increasing its depth and breadth of services and programs.
For a long while, NSPF and APSP seemed to have their service territories: NSPF was mostly regarded as a commercial and aquatics organization, in part because of its popular certified pool operator program; APSP’s membership consisted mostly of companies and professionals serving the residential market.
But NSPF began expanding more into residential in 2015, when it merged with Genesis, which specializes in pool/spa design and construction education. And last year, NSPF began offering a certification program for residential pool service, in direct competition with APSP’s service certifications. Meanwhile, APSP has explored ways to serve commercial construction and service.
APSP’s move into online education may prove another step in this competitive direction, considering NSPF’s online training has been considered one of its major strengths. To help with the educational upgrade, APSP has hired two former NSPF staffers: former director of educational programs Alex Antoniou and former mission development director Silvia Uribe.
APSP also has begun work to strengthen its offerings on another front: Its presence in California, which has not seen chapter activity in more than a decade.
It began a search to fill a newly created position — director of the APSP western office. This professional will replace a western representative who recently left the organization. The new staffer will play an increased role, particularly in the Golden State.
“We need to get somebody on the ground who can function in a staff role and devote their efforts fully to getting results,” Manilla said. “Our intentions are to organize chapters in California as we have in the rest of the nation.”
He said APSP will continue its collaboration and alliance with the California Pool & Spa Association. Last year, the two groups signed an agreement to share funds and resources. They work together on legislative and regulatory issues. Additionally, any California-based company or professional who signs up for either association automatically becomes a member of the other.