Davenport, Iowa-based security dealer, Per Mar Security, attributes much of its 57-year success to its employees. “Our mission is to be guardians of people, property and profits for life,” comments Brad Stoefen, training specialist for Per Mar. “If we take care of our employees, they will take care of customers and the financial result will take care of itself.”

One important way that Per Mar takes care of employees is in providing them with extensive training, sometimes even hiring training companies to conduct private training for Per Mar employees. An important private training initiative over the past two to three years has been in preparation for fire system certification from the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET).

The goal of the NICET training is to help all of Per Mar’s 57 Iowa-based technicians obtain NICET Level 2 certification no later than October 2011, when a new Iowa state law takes effect requiring any technician who works on a fire alarm system to have that certification. The private NICET training, conducted for Per Mar by the National Training Center, is also open to approximately 70 additional Per Mar technicians in the other five Midwestern states in which Per Mar operates.

“We believe NICET Level 2 certification will be the standard in other states at some point,” Stoefen says. Per Mar opted for private training rather than sending technicians to classes open to a wider audience because, as Stoefen explains, “For us, it comes down to ensuring that everyone is getting a consistent message.”

When technicians go to public training classes with attendees from several other companies, those companies typically have different practices and procedures, which can impact the specific material covered at every class.

Offering private classes also helps build teamwork, Stoefen says. Employees operating in different states or at opposite ends of a state can get to know each other better, he says. Also helping to contribute to the camaraderie is the fact that the same National Training Center trainer has conducted all of the private Per Mar classes and has become quite familiar with the company’s operations.

Last but not least, Per Mar actually saves money holding private classes rather than sending technicians to public classes because the company pays a flat rate per class rather than paying on a per-student basis.

The National Training Center NICET class takes place over two full days. As part of the training, technicians receive copies of National Fire Protection Association codes and other materials, and the first day is spent largely on reviewing the codes. The National Training Center builds in some open-book quizzes throughout the day as well.

On the second day a considerable amount of time is devoted to test-taking techniques. Technicians must obtain a score of 70 percent on the NICET Level 1 and Level 2 tests in order to pass, and the National Training Center offers tips on “breaking the test down into 10-question segments” with the goal of getting at least seven out of 10 correct, Stoefen explains.

Technicians typically take the NICET certification test about two or three months after attending training. Before they can take it, they must go through a registration process, through which NICET confirms the technician’s employment status.

The Level 1 and Level 2 tests require about four hours each. Stoefen believes technicians have had a greater success rate taking the Level 1 and Level 2 NICET certification tests as a result of the National Training Center training, with more passing on the first try.