Written by Don Onwiler -
The knowledge base and skill set required of the average service technician is anything but average. In fact, it is quite staggering. Just for starters, consider the vast array of specifications, tolerances and other technical requirements for weighing and measuring devices as documented in NIST Handbook 44. They must also understand the National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP) and how to properly determine and maintain traceability of those devices to NTEP certification. Then there are the varying rules and regulations from one state to another for being a registered service technician. Lastly, of course, they must know how to install, diagnose and repair everything from mechanical to highly sophisticated software-based weighing and measuring instruments.
In many of the states, technicians are required to be registered or licensed in order to place commercial devices into service prior to the official examination by a regulator. Part of that licensing process often includes a test that is administered to determine the applicant’s understanding of Handbook 44. This can be cumbersome for the state agency which must maintain and administer the exams and also to the service technicians if they are seeking registration in multiple states.
In an effort to streamline this process, the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) has now developed 2 basic-level exams on Handbook 44; one for scales and one for meters. Eventually, we expect states to recognize these basic tests for licensing service agents. We plan to make these exams available online, to be taken in a proctored environment. Some states are already laying the groundwork to recognize these exams for licensing service technicians.
As with all things we do at NCWM, pricing will be structured to encourage NCWM membership. The nonmember price is for the exams is $75. A membership is $90, but with that, the exam is free, and the applicant can request a complimentary copy of NIST Handbook 44 with their membership. This will help ensure that registered service agents have access to the handbook. There are other benefits to membership, but I’ll not turn this into too much of a marketing article.
We are now working to establish the proctoring element of this program. Once that is in place, we will be ready to offer the exams. Applicants will purchase exams through the NCWM website using a typical online shopping cart experience. After the purchase, the applicant receives a receipt by email. The link to take the exam will be on the applicant’s personal “dashboard” on the NCWM website under “My Tests”. When taking the test, the proctor will need to log in to demonstrate his or her physical presence.
These exams are open book. Proctors will provide the computer and a copy of Handbook 44. The applicant will carry nothing in and nothing out of the testing facility, including cell phones. There may be a proctoring fee, depending on who is providing that service in your area. This will be out of NCWM’s control.
Taking an exam in an unfamiliar online environment sometimes can cause some anxiety or require a slight learning curve. Recognizing that a first attempt may not provide a fair assessment of the applicant’s expertise, NCWM allows two attempts to pass an exam. After a second failure, there is a 30-day cooling off period before they may repurchase and take the exam again. Each exam will be slightly unique because the questions are randomized from a larger pool of questions.
NCWM does not provide training for these exams, in part because it would be viewed as training to the test. We think this may be a great opportunity for ISWM to provide an important service to their members, so it is potentially a win for everyone.
All of this comes at an expense, but NCWM is a member organization focused on improving the business community that it serves. This is just one more way to provide meaningful and affordable services to our members and stakeholders.
Please contact NCWM for more information about membership, programs and the standards development process at:
Don Onwiler is Executive Director of the National Conference on Weights and Measures since 2008. He is a former program manager for the Nebraska Weights and Measures Division and was the 2006 NCWM Chairman of the Board. Reach him at email@example.com.