Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ACE -- Not just for structural control anymore?

As was discussed in the 2015 Certification Board Director's report earlier this month, the CB is actively investigating the possibility of creating a new version of the ACE program. The ACE-Turf and Ornamental Exploratory Committee has been meeting for the past few months to talk about what a new certification would look like and whom it would serve.

As such, they have developed a new tool to question the turf and ornamental marketplace. Please share this post broadly. We need your input to help decide if this is a venture that ESA should pursue.

The survey is only 12 questions long and should only take 3-4 minutes to complete.  Your response is needed and appreciated.

Click here to help ESA choose if we should offer a new ACE targeting the turf and ornamental market.

The survey closes on February 28th.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

2015 Director's Report

Thank you for your strong and continued interest in the ESA Certification programs. I am pleased and proud to serve as your 2015 Director of the ESA Certification Board. Continuing a tradition that was started by my predecessor, Pat Copps, my purpose in writing today is to report to you on the state of our Society's certification and credentialing programs (Pat's 2014 report is on the blog).

The BCE, ACE, and new ACE-International certification programs are strong and continue to provide a platform for personal credentialing in our industry. Last year continued a recent track record of record growth for ACE and BCE. Here are some of the highlights:
  • ACE grew at rate of 9%, closing the year with 833 ACEs.
  • BCE grew at a more modest 1%, but that is significant after several years of flat growth and small declines. Of note is that for the first time in recent history, BCE recorded back-to-back growth years, having also grown by 1% in 2013.
  • I am pleased to welcome a new member to the Certification Board with the addition of Robert Kunst, ACE, filling the ACE Representative role. He was elected last summer and will serve a three-year term.
  • ACE-International was successfully launched at PestWorld, NPMA's industry trade show, in October 2014. While ESA HQ has been receiving applications, as of this writing we have not yet had anyone pass both exams (read more about the launch). Zia Siddiqi, BCE, is Chairing the new ACE-I Support committee.
  • The Certification Board approved the process of beginning to update all of the BCE exams. Two of these are underway now. Harold Harlan, BCE, is chairing a task force to examine and update the BCE Qualifying (Core) exam and George Schoeler, BCE, is leading a similar group to review and revise the Medical and Veterinary Specialty exam.
  • Two other groups are currently and actively exploring alternative ACE designations with Nic Ellis, BCE, leading a group on ACE-Turf and Ornamental and Ed Bordes, BCE-Emeritus, leading a group investigating ACE-Public Health.
  • The long-discussed ACE Study Guide is nearing completion and a manuscript will go out for review by April 1st with a book expected for sale by late summer or early fall.
  • At the 2014 annual business meeting during the ESA Annual Meeting in Portland, OR, the group discussed the perennially low attendance at the business meeting. In an effort to have a wider impact, those assembled voted to try something new this year for the annual business meeting. Late this fall watch for the first ever virtual BCE business meeting to be held sometime after the ESA Annual Meeting. Details will be forthcoming.
And finally, last year new logos for ACE and BCE were unveiled. The new logos do a good job of portraying the prestige and purpose of our two proud credentialing programs.

As always, I am available to answer any questions you may have about BCE, ACE, or any of our related programs. 

Your Certification Board and staff are hard at work building these programs. If you would like to contribute, please consider either serving on a committee, running for an office, encouraging your peers and colleagues to become certified, and possibly serving as a proctor. This is YOUR program. Help make it a success for all of us by contributing.

Laura Higgins, BCE (Plant-related specialty)
2015 Director, Certification Board 
ESA Certification Corporation 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


ESA gets a number of questions about how the CEUs for renewing ACEs work. Today I'll try and answer some of them and ease any lingering confusion.

First off, our intent in having CEUs is to ensure the rigor of the program is uniform. If you've earned your ACE, you know that the test is rigorous and really tests your knowledge of the program. You didn't earn your ACE without working for it. Similarly, you need to keep learning in order to keep your ACE. And documenting your CEUs is a part of that.

But at the same time we're not trying to recreate what the states do. Here in the USA, all states require a certain amount of education to maintain your pesticide applicator's license. Internationally, some provinces, states, and countries require recertification, but not everywhere. The standard needs to be uniform for all ACEs, regardless of geographic location.

Generally the US-state requirements are pretty strict and only certain activities will count toward renewal. Virtually any activity that counts for your state recertification credits will also count for ACE. And ESA has some allowable activities that most states won't allow.

The examples below are some less common ways to earn your ACE renewal CEUs. Bear in mind that the rules may change over time. These are allowable as of now, but you should click here to see the current table of eligible CEUs.

Reading trade publications: There are many great trade publications for pest control, including PCT, PMP, and NPMA's PestWorld. You can claim up to 2 hours per year by reading trade publications. We recommend that you simply keep a file of articles that you read as documentation. Some people keep a copy of the magazine in print form and put a checkmark on the Table of Contents of articles that they read.

Job-related examinations taken:  You can claim up to 3 hours per year for job related examinations, including the ACE exam, as long as it falls within the period you are submitting CEUs for.  This is of great value to those newer ACEs who are still gathering their first renewal CEUs.

Webinars:  NPMA, Univar, and others all put on some great webinars on pest control education. Some of these are free and some require a fee, but you can claim up to 7 hours per year for webinars.

Job-related community service:  You can claim a couple of hours per year simply by being a good steward of your knowledge in your community. Talk to a group of seniors about insects, speak at your local homeless center about ways to mitigate the likelihood of bed bugs, or maybe even help educate your community about the dangers of DIY pest control. You could even get credit simply by performing pro bono pest management services for a charity organization.

Articles authored and Pest control Blogs written:  Some ACEs find that starting a blog or authoring a column for their local newspaper is a great way to do some marketing outreach in addition to fulfilling their CEU requirement. YOu can claim 6 hours a year for articles and 2 hours a year for blogs.

Training attended and Professional conferences:  This is the primary way that most people earn their CEUs. You can get all that you need simply by attending a one full day session every year.

If you have any questions about what counts as a CEU, please contact us after clicking here to see the current table of eligible CEUs.  ESA wants to make the process as smooth as possible for everyone while still maintaining ongoing educational requirements.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Studying Paying Off

The ACE Exam is not easy. 

Some of the words and phrases I've heard PMP's use when describing the exam include:
  • "Rigorous, but fair"
  • "More broad-ranging than I thought it would be"
  • "Hard"
  • "Tougher than my state exam"
  • "A good overall assessment"
It is not at all uncommon for a person to take the ACE Exam and not pass it. In fact, more than half of the people who take it do not get through on their first attempt.  I think that a lot of the reason for this breaks down into one of two reasons:

1) A lack of preparation
2) A lack of understanding for the depth of the exam

This is not meant as an insult to anyone. I could easily see a person who has been in the industry for 25 years thinking that they can pass the exam with little to no preparation. And some have -- but not many. 

Pest management is a time-consuming business and it can be hard to imagine where you would be able to squeeze study time into an already jam-packed day. But, the ESA Certification Board recommends that an ACE applicant spends a minimum of 40 hours of self-study in preparation for the exam.  One good approach that some people use is to slot 15-20 minutes a day for study. Maybe when you first get up. Habits form quickly, and getting out your study materials while you're having your morning coffee can end up being a fairly simple way to prepare for the exam (not to mention learning how to better excel at your job!).

Exam Depth:
The ACE Content Outline is extremely broad. It can be hard to figure out exactly what to study based on the outline. I've asked a couple of our ACEs who did not pass the exam on their first attempt to share their study tips.

Robert Alarco, ACE works for Orkin, which has been a big supporter of personal credentialing for PMPs. While he took his first exam largely through studying by himself, he was part of a group study environment for his second attempt and was able to raise his score by 8 percentage points to a comfortably-passing grade. As he says, "Here at Orkin we had weekly conference calls as a group and we went over specific material i.e. termites 1 week, ants another etc.  And then we had 2 study sessions as a group off site before we ultimately took the exam.  That structure forced me to remain in an environment conducive to learning and definitely helped me brush up on my knowledge."

For Chris Clark, ACE, Service Manager for HomeTeam Pest Defense, he acknowledges that he came in unprepared for the first exam, thinking that his years of experience in the industry would carry the day. "Being a state certified GHP operator and 15 years in the industry.  I mistakenly went into the original ACE exam with the thought that this was going to be breeze.  I did take part in a study course with Dr. Baldwin at UF which was an eye opener that I was not studying solely for our FL pests, I was also looking at all North American pests.  So needless to say I gave the exam my best effort at that time and the results showed my preparation.  So with a bruised ego and a new determination I buckled down with a better idea of what to expect.  For my second attempt, a lot of my preparation was based off the content on the ESA website including the ACE Exam Content Outline.  Dr. Stephanie Hill created a worksheet (click here to access a free copy of Dr Hill's study sheet) for me to judge my knowledge of each potential pest.  So based on my perceived knowledge of each listed pest I utilized the Mallis/Internet/Dr. Hill/Featured Creature of UF to go over the areas I was not as familiar with. After the new date was set for my ACE exam attempt.  I set myself to have the week prior off to do make sure all information was read and reread.  This time after the proper preparation I was able to pass my ACE exam with a little breathing room. The first time, I went in almost expecting to pass based on my years of experience.  My preparation was horrible and so were my results.  The second time I just made sure to buckle down and study because it was important for me to achieve this accomplishment."

Here are my 5 favorite ways to prepare for the ACE exam:

  1. Form a study group. Studying with a peer set is a great way to prepare for the exam. You will be able to capitalize on each other's strengths and weaknesses and perhaps you can even share study books to save on costs. A study group will also help keep you on task.
  2. Dedicate 15 minutes a day to read study materials.  You are busy, I'm sure. We all are. But everyone has 15 minutes out of every day that they can spend. Make it a goal and it will become a habit. 
  3. Develop your own review materials. Just like in Chris Clark's story above, using a study worksheet that is personalized to you and your situation can help you prepare. Studies have shown that the act of writing information down helps increase memory retention. In other words simply by preparing the study worksheet you are training your brain to remember the information. 
  4. Find an ACE review course. A review course is like a souped-up study group. It will generally be led by a BCE or other qualified instructor and is designed to help you hone the knowledge you've accumulated over your years in the industry. But ...
  5. Don't count on the review course.  Remember that the ACE exam is testing on a body of knowledge. It is almost impossible to cram for it. You need to be diligent in preparing for it. Recall that a minimum of 40 hours of self-study is the recommendation, regardless of your length of time in the industry.


Friday, January 9, 2015

The 'Uber-Effect' on Pest Control?

Many PMPs choose to forgo using any type of software, and stick to manual input methods when it comes to daily business tasks. Software exists in the field to make our lives easier, allowing us to focus more on the quality of work we perform everyday, as opposed to getting bogged down in repetitive or time-consuming tasks. 

There are a multitude of options for PMPs to consider when it comes to choosing a software solution for their business. One thing that's rarely taken into account though when making this choice, is what kind of features are customer-facing -- that is, what are functionalities available for the consumer to interact with, as opposed to just the service provider back in the office? After all, why choose a software solution that your customers might end up hating to interface with?

To learn more, we teamed up with Software Advice, a company that researches and reviews pest control software, for a new report that dives into this very topic. They identified the most requested technology preferences of residential service customers. These include the ability to track the technicians before they arrive at their scheduled appointment. The popular taxi-alternative Uber utilizes a technology just like this, which has catapulted them across the country. Another top-requested feature is a robust customer portal that includes online bill pay and appointment scheduling. Software Advice developed their report to help residential service companies identify and understand which software capabilities will not only improve the customer's experience, but possibly even motivate the customer to hire one service provider over another.

We spoke briefly with pest control market researcher, Justin Guinn of Software Advice, who compiled the report after surveying more than 8,000 residential service customers in the United States:

Considering the data from your report, what would you say are the implications that pest control business operators should consider?

“In short, residential service business owners, including those in the pest control industry, need to consider current and potential customers’ perception of their company. For better or worse, a typical measure of this is technology. While your business might be operating just fine with little-to-no technology integration, consumers might take this as an indicator of an outdated business. Nonetheless, our data points to the fact that they’d be more inclined to hire a business based on their software usage and offerings. For example, a majority of our respondents (58 percent) say the use of technician tracking capabilities by a service provider would increase their likelihood to choose that business for the job. This is a feature that allows customers to pinpoint exactly when their service provider will be arriving, whether it's on-time or even a little late. It eliminates the need to be home in that three hour waiting window for the technician to show up.”

What's one of the most surprising findings that came from the consumer responses?
“Surprisingly, over a quarter of our older millennial respondents (25-34 years old) indicated that residential service companies utilize technology poorly to improve experiences. This was surprising at first since millennials are supposed to be tech and software hounds... How could they not like it folded into their residential services experience? Well, a likely answer to why the data came back this way is that millennials have much greater expectations when it comes to the functionality of technology. They expect things to integrate and work seamlessly, not to mention, be aesthetically pleasing. The takeaway here is it’s not so much about simply offering the software functionalities to consumers, but having the right technology and software for your business and your target customer audiences. It’s about doing it right, whether that means signing a signature on an iPad, or paying a bill through an easy-to-use customer portal.”

What should be the residential service industry's priorities moving forward?
“Moving forward, residential service operators should consider the positive benefits of adopting customer-facing software; not just in terms of business operations, but also as a means of gaining a larger client base. More specifically, the industry should be targeting customer pain points that we now have the technology to fix. Technician tracking is a perfect example of this. I understand unexpected things can of course come up in the field that can have a domino effect and delay other jobs. But given the GPS technology available today, and the propensity of smart phones, reducing the window of arrival should be prioritized for the customer. This, for example, can have a multitude of benefits; both customer-facing and operational. Geofencing technology was highlighted in our study for this very reason. Essentially the same technology that connects Uber drivers to riders, geofencing is a tracking mechanism that sets digital boundaries in which technicians may cross in and out of. As they do so, their GPS enabled devices notify and log the information back to the main office. This is the technology that would enable the “technician tracking” functions that respondents said they wanted. Aside from notifying customers about updated arrival times, geofencing has many operational benefits as well.”

Find out more about the Austin, Texas-based Software Advice and the pest control software solutions they review, and check out their full report for further information. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Remote Proctoring

ESA recently debuted a new service for those who are seeking their ACE or BCE. No longer do you need to schedule an exam date with a proctor and perhaps drive far distances to meet your proctor in his or her office.

How about you take the exams at home. By yourself. In your pajamas?

Well ... that last part is up to you. Recently ESA partnered with a Canadian firm called Loyalist to offer remote exam proctoring. With remote proctoring the exam is still proctored, but it is no longer done in person.

To fully appreciate the differences, let's start by talking about traditional proctoring (there have been many posts about proctors on this blog, including herehere, and here). Since the BCE program started in the 1970s, exams have been proctored. Initially they were done on paper and then the job morphed a bit when internet testing became a reality, but overall the relationship between the proctor and the applicant has remained about the same:
  • Applicant finds someone to proctor their exam
  • Applicant and proctor schedule a time to take the exam
  • Applicant communicates that information to ESA. We schedule the exams and send the login instructions to the proctor about a week out from the test.
  • Applicant (usually) travels to proctor's office
  • Applicant takes the exam while the proctor sits in the room and supervises
I've had applicants tell me that they have flown or driven hundreds of miles to get to a proctor. This is still an option, and for those who want to test with an in-person proctor, they still can. However, some people prefer a different model.

Enter remote proctoring...

In a remote proctored setting the applicant takes their exam(s) online and a proctor watches them through the computer's web camera. The proctor watches your key strokes, your facial movement, and your surroundings while also listening in for any audible anomalies. If any illicit activities occur, the proctor is authorized to terminate the exam and notify ESA HQ. At the conclusion of the exam your computer is left exactly as it was prior with no new hardware or software installed.  It's not free, of course, but the fees are collected by and paid directly to the proctor, not ESA. The current fee is about $50. The new process looks something like this:
  • Applicant tells ESA that they want to use a remote proctor and test during a certain time period (generally we ask for a specific date and then allow a little flexibility around that date)
  • ESA advises Loyalist that a new exam is being scheduled
  • Loyalist sends instructions to the applicant for logging into their system and paying the fees
  • On the day of the exam, applicant logs into their computer from virtually any location and is directed by the proctor on how to proceed.
  • At the start of the exam period, the proctor will check the ID of the applicant, review the surrounding area for unauthorized materials or people, and inform the applicant of the testing rules. 
  • At the conclusion of the exam the proctor will watch as the applicant tears up any scrap paper that was used (applicants are permitted one blank sheet of paper and a pencil/pen during the exam, but it must be destroyed or remitted to the proctor at the end of the exam).
Traditional proctoring is still available for those who prefer it, but if you (a) prefer to test at home rather than traveling to a proctor, (b) don't like having a proctor in the room with you while you test, and/or (c) don't live near a proctor, then remote proctoring may be a good option for you.

If you want to use a remote proctor for your next ACE or BCE exam, please contact ace@entsoc.org or bce@entsoc.org and ask how you can get started.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New ACE and BCE list December 2014

Please join ESA in congratulating the latest individuals to earn their ACE or BCE (earned prior to December 15, 2014):

  • Mrs. Noel E. MacNeil, BCE-Intern, (not provided), Interlochen, MI  USA.  Certified on 12/1/2014
  • Mrs. Jennifer O'Dell Brumfield, BCE, (Western Pest Services), Cochranville, PA  USA.  Certified on 11/13/2014
  • Mr. Trenton Scott Frazer, BCE, (Alterra, Inc.), Sandy, UT  USA.  Certified on 11/21/2014. 
  • Mr. Gary Hugh Cochrane, BCE, (Amalgamated Pest Control Pty Ltd), Brisbane,   Australia.  Certified on 11/26/2014
  • Mr. Darryl J Franke, ACE, (SOS Pest Control), Kansas City, MO  USA.  Certified on 11/13/2014
  • Mr. Richard M Gruber, Jr, ACE, (Orkin Pest Control), Columbus, OH  USA.  Certified on 11/14/201 
  • Mr. Robert G. Alarco, ACE, (Orkin LLC), New Hyde Park, NY  USA.  Certified on 11/14/2014
  • Mr. John A. Hernandez, ACE, (Western Pest Services), Toms River, NJ  USA.  Certified on 11/14/2014
  • Mr. Damian Marcello, ACE, (Orkin Pest Control), Latham, NY  USA.  Certified on 11/14/2014
  • Mr. Robert Gaul, ACE, (Craig Thomas Pest Control ), Hyde Park, NY  USA.  Certified on 11/14/2014
  • Mr. James Robert Haeger, ACE, (Pugliese Pest Solutions / Rollins Inc.), Utica, NY  USA.  Certified on 11/14/2014
  • Mr. Christopher S Schneider, ACE, (Univar), Napa, CA  USA.  Certified on 11/24/2014. 
  • Mr. Michael P. Reid, ACE, (Cardiff Pest Control), Santa Cruz, CA  USA.  Certified on 12/5/2014
  • Mr. John Peter Pirrone, ACE, (Keystone Pest Control, Inc.), Hayward, CA  USA.  Certified on 12/5/2014