February 23, 2005
CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR PLUMBERS
By: Daniel Duffy, Principal Analyst
You asked for a summary of the law requiring plumbers to take continuing education courses before renewing their licenses. You also wanted to know who requested the bill, the reasons they offered in support of it, and if course fees are deposited into the state's General Fund.
State statute requires the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) to adopt regulations requiring licensed plumbers to meet continuing education requirements. The law, enacted in 2002, requires the regulations to set qualifying criteria for course providers and establish a process for waiving the continuing education requirement for good cause.
The continuing education for plumbers took effect on November 1, 2004, and applies to license renewals on November 1, 2005 and thereafter.
The regulations establish (1) a process for course approval; (2) minimum standards for course providers, instructors, and content; (3) a minimum number of continuing education credit hours required for
license renewal; (4) minimum course advertising standards; (5) record-keeping standards for both course providers and licensees; and (6) a process for seeking a hardship exemption.
The legislation originally applied only to electricians. Laurence Vallieres, the chairman of the electrician's licensing board and head of a trade association, requested it and testified in favor of it at the bill's public hearing. The two other speakers both supported the bill and asked that it be extended to include plumbers.
The fees charged for continuing education courses are set and kept by the course providers.
THE STATUTE REQUIRING PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION FOR PLUMBERS
The statute requires the DCP commissioner to adopt regulations to (1) establish requirements for accredited continuing professional education for electricians and plumbers, (2) establish qualifying criteria for accredited continuing professional education programs, (3) establish qualifying criteria for acceptable certificates of continuing education, and (4) provide for waiving continuing education requirements for good cause. The commissioner must work with the advice and assistance of the licensing boards for electrical and plumbing work concerning their respective trades when adopting the regulations.
It authorizes DCP to contract for services to monitor continuing professional education requirements and to require providers to pay the monitor for the service.
The statute defines “accredited continuing professional education” as education of a plumber (1) designed to maintain professional competence in the pursuit, practice, and standards of his trade; (2) approved by the commissioner; and (3) provided by an organization, institution, or agency approved by the commissioner.
It defines “certificate of continuing education” as a document issued to a plumber by an approved accredited continuing professional education organization, institution, or agency that (1) certifies that the tradesman satisfactorily completed a specified number of continuing education hours and (2) bears the name of the organization, title of the program, dates the program was conducted, number of satisfactorily completed hours of continuing education, and signature of the organization's director or his authorized agent (CGS §§ 20-334d, 20-335, and 21a-8).
IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS (§ 20-344D-1)
A course provider must include with his application (1) a course outline; (2) a listing of all reference materials used; (3) the names, addresses, license numbers, and qualifications of each instructor; and (4) contact information. Providers must obtain DCP's approval annually.
The courses must consist of plumbing trade laws and practices that are broad-based, essential, and in the best interests of the consumer. They must relate directly to trade principles and practices.
The regulations prohibit the commissioner from approving continuing education courses for (1) office and business skills, such as typing, speed-reading, memory development, personal motivation, salesmanship, and sales psychology or (2) sales promotions or other meetings held in conjunction with a contractor's business.
Notification of Course Offerings and Course Locations
The regulations require providers, before the scheduled date of each course, to submit a schedule of its dates, hours, and locations. Providers must have the DCP commissioner's prior written approval before giving or advertising a course. Changes in a course are prohibited unless approved by the commissioner.
Courses must be conducted in a classroom. Correspondence courses are prohibited. Providers must obtain an approval certificate from the local fire marshal before using a classroom.
Minimum Number of Hours and Content for Plumbers
The regulations require unlimited plumbing contractors to obtain, on and after November 1, 2004, at least nine credit hours of courses each year before renewing their licenses. They require limited plumbing contractors and unlimited plumbing journeypersons to obtain, on and after November 1, 2004, at least six credit hours of courses each year before renewing their licenses. They require limited plumbing journeypersons to obtain, on and after November 1, 2004, at least three credit hours of courses each year before renewing their licenses. Under
the DCP license renewal schedule, all plumbers renew their licenses on November 1 (Reg. Conn. State Agencies § 21a-10-1). This means that plumbers are required to take their minimum number of credit hours of continuing education courses in the 12 months between November 1, 2004 and November, 1 2005 and annually thereafter.
The following study areas are acceptable: licensing or business law applicable to the trade, current State Building Codes and Standards, and study areas recommended by the state's Plumbing and Piping Work Examining Board.
The regulations require each course to apply to specific license types and categories. Courses completed before the commissioner approves them do not qualify for credit. License holders renewing for the first time after obtaining their licenses are exempted from meeting the continuing education requirement.
Advertising Continuing Education Courses
The regulations prohibit continuing education course advertisements from being deceptive or misleading, making unfounded guarantees, or making misleading claims about tuition or costs. They require advertisements to reveal significant facts, substantiate claims, and avoid the use of exaggerated or unproven claims or misrepresentations. All notices must clearly and conspicuously disclose the full nature of the services offered. Material containing testimonials must be limited to individuals reflecting their own personal experiences. The regulations prohibit providers from using the words “Approved by the Commissioner” but allow providers to use “This course meets the minimum requirements as set forth by the Commissioner.”
The regulations require providers to keep complete records of student attendance and course completion for at least four years after the course has been completed. The records must be kept available for inspection by the commissioner. Providers must give licensees an approved certificate upon the satisfactory completion of each course.
The regulations put the burden of proving that courses have been completed on the licensee. A licensee applying for renewal must keep all certificates of approved course completion for at least four years after
completing the course. A licensee must, on the commissioner's request, make the certificates available to the commissioner, or a third party, for purposes of verification.
The regulations require the provider to give the names, addresses, and license numbers of those who have successfully completed the course to the commissioner.
Equivalent Continuing Education
The regulations allow the commissioner, with the advice of the licensing board, to approve, on an individual basis, other educational courses taken by a licensee in lieu of an approved course. These courses must meet the regulation's content standards.
The law was adopted in 2002 (PA 02-142, SB 501). There were three speakers on the bill at the public hearing; all supported it. As originally drafted, the bill only applied to electricians. Laurence Vallieres, Chairman of the Electrical Work Examining Board and president of the Independent Electrical Contractors Association, a non-union group, sought the legislation. Vallieres stated that it would ensure the highest possible standards for licensed electricians. Continuing education courses would help licensees keep abreast of changes in the electrical code. Further, two-thirds of the 43 states that require electricians to be licensed also require licensees to meet continuing education requirements.
Robert Hupplesberg, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling Contractors was the next speaker. He asked that the bill be amended to include plumbing and heating contractors. He said that the plumbing industry would like to set up its own continuing education program.
Andrew Hul, past president of the Connecticut Association of Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling Contractors and owner of a company that provides plumbing, electrical, and heating services, also testified in favor of the bill. He said that the association would be willing to become a continuing education provider.He said that it would raise the standards in the trade and ensure that licensees maintain the best knowledge that they possibly can.
The providers of the continuing education courses set, charge, and keep the course fees. They do not remit any portion of it to the state.