XLN's Bill Luallen chats with the IICRC's Michael Dakduk and Kevin Pearson.
Everyone throughout the cleaning and restoration industries felt the pinch from the Coronavirus pandemic in one way or another last year, but for Michael Dakduk, it was a notable challenge. Just a few days into his new role as President and CEO of the IICRC, businesses across the country began shutting down. He knew he needed to act quickly to continue managing daily operations at the Institute while keeping staff healthy and adhering to safety guidelines. He credits his relationships with the IICRC Board and its leaders for the organization’s agility and resiliency in responding to the crisis. “When we’re making decisions, we have to make them in the best interest of our registrants and our technicians,” he states, “and that’s what we did.”
So just how did the IICRC adjust to the pandemic? Its first priority was to set up live-streaming classes so cleaning and restoration professionals could continue their education without missing a beat. The IICRC Chairman of the Board, Kevin Pearson, reveals it took only five days, including a weekend, to go live with online training. He explains, “We called a special board meeting on a Wednesday evening and by Monday morning the staff had live-stream applications up and going so people could apply to teach. It makes you realize how resilient the Institute is that we can go through that and still keep humming along.” Michael agrees noting, “When the pandemic hit and everything shut down, there was a realization that the time is now. You have to find ways to move forward without diminishing the value of the education.”
A second priority for the IICRC was to build and utilize partnerships to provide restoration and cleaning professionals with the resources they need to continue doing their jobs properly and safely in the wake of the pandemic. “We partnered with the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) to create and publish a COVID-19 report for restoration and cleaning professionals,” Michael shares. The report is now in its fifth edition and Michael applauds the volunteers who take the time to keep it up to date. Additionally, the IICRC and the RIA partnered with the National Air Duct Cleaning Association (NADCA) and composed a letter that was sent to governors advocating for professionals in the cleaning and restoration industries to be classified as essential workers. Kevin explains, “It’s important to make sure that people could get out and clean the buildings and all the things that our registrants and Certified Firms do.” He adds, “There have been several opportunities in the last few months for us to partner with different organizations and collaborate together, and we definitely look for that to continue.”
For the IICRC, the past year wasn’t just about tackling the challenges created by the pandemic. As part of their strategic plan, they’ve put together an initiative concentrated on growing their international offices and increasing international registration. They’re also working to get IICRC standards recognized globally, starting in Australia and New Zealand. Kevin states, “We want to see if we can get other standards organizations around the world to recognize our standards, because ANSI is great here in the US, but it is the American National Standards Institute. So if you’re outside the US, other people kind of look at it and go, ‘Well, that’s nice, but it’s not an Australian standard or a New Zealand standard.’”
Michael and Kevin also share with us that the IICRC is planning to roll out “go at your own pace” e-learning that will offer modular, stackable credentials for those in the cleaning and restoration industries to reach certain professional designations. Kevin points out, “The pandemic created for us new and different ways for people to learn and fit the IICRC education into their schedule and lifestyle.” He continues, “Having these classes available opens doors for people that wouldn’t normally get to take them.” Michael chimes in, “They’re learning management systems. It’s pretty exciting! It’s going to be the newest addition to the way that the IICRC education is delivered.”
More announcements from the IICRC include the latest addition to their course offerings, Content Processing Technician (CPT), and the publication of a new American National Standard ANSI/IICRC S220 Standard for Professional Inspection of Hard Surface Floor Coverings. ” Kevin shares, “We’re always looking to increase awareness in different aspects of the cleaning and restoration industries that we don’t currently cover.”
Next year will mark 50 years since the creation of the Institute and its core values of get it done, be honest, embrace failure, and one team, one mission are fully intact. So what does 2021 and beyond hold for the IICRC? According to Michael, they are dedicated to a self-acknowledged lofty goal – getting 100% of Industry Professionals credentialed with the IICRC. “We consider ourselves the leaders when it comes to standards and certification. We want to make sure that every technician receives a professional certification or credential from the IICRC.” He continues, “Not everyone’s going to want to take an exam, so we’re going to export credentials. Our vision for the future is that everyone in the industries we serve holds a professional respected IICRC credential.” He admits, “That’s ambitious. No, we’re not going to get everybody. It’s not a hundred percent, but we’re going for it. We want to make sure everyone is educated and they’re committed to lifelong learning.”
Creating long-term careers for individuals is also a driving force in everything the Institute continues to do. Kevin notes, “The IICRC has always been working towards providing career paths for people who want to grow in these industries. We need good people coming up in the system to keep that cycle going. And it’s so hard for our Certified Firms to find good people and keep them. We can provide the education they need and show them that there are more things you can do in this field, there’s more education, there are more opportunities for you.” He concludes, “We’re doing this for a pupil that we will probably never meet and we’re doing our best to give them the opportunities we had plus some.”
Volunteer opportunities abound at the IICRC and you can get started by requesting a volunteer form from anyone at the Institute. Shining a spotlight on the dedicated volunteers is important to both Kevin and Michael and is being successfully done on Kevin’s 30-minute internet show Chats with the Chairman. Go behind the scenes of the IICRC with these informative episodes and participate in polls and Q&As to help expand your knowledge of the industry and the Institute. Past Chats are available for viewing online and you can register for upcoming shows here.