Wilde's philosophy is that knowledge testing is the only fair way to test someone's ability to do his or her job, because there is no bias. In a skills test, he says, someone is timing the person taking the test, and whenever another human being enters into the process, there is the potential to affect the outcome of a skills test. A technician who takes a knowledge test, in contrast, passes or fails based purely on the answers he or she has given to the questions.
"That's what I mean by fair," he concludes. "This is the standard; this is the bar. Everyone starts out on a level playing field, and there's no human intervention to affect the outcome."
Many emergency vehicle technicians use their EVT Certification to give them an advantage in climbing the career ladder, as some cities, municipalities and independent repair shops tie pay raises and promotions to Certification. At Wilde's independent shop in Elmhurst, for example, technicians get pay raises for every Certification test they pass.
"The Certification is the carrot at the end of the stick," says Wilde. "What we want them to do is be better technicians, because they picked up a book, or sought out the information, prepared for an exam and were successful.
"But even if you're not successful, you've gained knowledge," he continues. "Maybe next time you'll be better prepared for it. The whole point is to get them to learn things that they need to know to do their job properly, effectively and efficiently. The urgency and the need for us to have qualified technicians is very, very important in this business."
Batallion chief Mike Fonzi of the Oklahoma City Fire Department certainly feels that urgency.
"Most of the time, when we go out with an open technician position, we start out with either a mechanic or a (ASE) Master Technician, because you can hardly find any (EVT) fully-Certified vehicle technicians," Fonzi says. "In 1992, we got with our personnel office and our finance department to advance our emergency vehicle technicians one more step above Master Technician. They have to hold an ASE Master Technician Certification for heavy or light vehicles, and then they also have to qualify for the EVT. They have a particular test they have to take for EVT just dealing with fire trucks."
Fonzi won approval from the city personnel and finance departments to increase the pay of EVT Certified technicians above that of ASE Master Technician, on the argument that NFPA requires a higher standard. So far six of his 11 technicians have chosen to follow this career path.
"We felt we needed to get them more pay, because their knowledge level is higher than what's needed to become a Master Technician," he says. "They can work towards the next level, in terms of career development and pay. It's good for my folks, because we send them to different classes to pass the exams, so they can gain that knowledge and get promoted for more pay."
Fonzi explains that the Oklahoma Emergency Vehicle Technician Association (OEVTA) holds free training classes every quarter. These training events are held in Oklahoma City and other cities throughout the state, and offer classes focusing on such hot topics as aerial maintenance, multiplex systems and diagnostic tools. In addition, OEVTA and the Texas Association team up once a year to put on a training convention. And these events aren't just for Oklahoma and Texas Emergency Vehicle Technicians—Fonzi says that technicians come from as far away as Wisconsin to take the classes.
Perhaps that's why the EVT Certification program is so successful: the classes are that good. Fonzi has just hired two new technicians, and he's already started sending them to OEVTA classes.
"The technicians love their classes," he says. "They make their job a lot easier. The old troubleshooting light's not working anymore."
TRAIN IN PAIN
Unfortunately, the training picture isn't so rosy in some cities. Bill Malcolm, manager for Metro Nashville and Davidson County, TN, describes his training efforts as "painful."
"In reality, we do not have a good training facility," he says. "We're taking advantage now of training from Pierce, E1, and outside sources for factory-type training. We get those in here quite often. But It's painful…