Greenville County takes ICC certifications seriously
As more jurisdictions require code enforcement officials to be nationally certified, building officials are looking for ways to motivate staff to pursue certifications. Even though the examination process is easy, the investment of time and money can still be a hurdle for many.
Herb Yingling CBO, MCP, CFM, building official for Greenville County in Greenville, S.C., has hit on a successful way to encourage his staff to obtain International Code Council certifications. He offers staff a salary percentage increase when they pass their residential building, electrical, mechanical and plumbing certification exams, and another percentage increase when they pass all four commercial exams as well. In addition, the county pays for the certification classes and tests, so that the individual inspectors do not have to shoulder that burden.
“South Carolina has one of the highest concentrations of certified building inspectors in the country,” said Yingling. “So we take these certifications seriously.”
Yingling has been able to make certifications an integral part of his department’s culture. When he became Greenville County’s building official in August 2016, he inherited a minimal staff that had not been rebuilt since the recession. With the support of county officials, Yingling began hiring broadly trained tradesmen instead of specialists, in order to allow them to cover more ground. He also launched mentoring and education programs to help retrain the existing staff, and launched his certification incentive program.
Yingling makes sure that people understand from the outset that they will be expected to obtain all eight residential and commercial inspector certifications as a condition of employment. “We bring that to the table when we interview them,” explained Yingling. “We make sure they know that they’re going to be in the books on their own time. We want them to recognize that they’re going to do a lot of studying at home.”
By making that clear up front, it helps Greenville County attract the most motivated and energetic candidates. The promise of pay increases upon completion of the exams is a real motivator. “If we’re going to put all these folks through those programs, then we have to give them incentives so they’re successful in pursuing and passing these Code Council certifications,” said Yingling. “It certainly gives more professionalism to the department.”
Although it’s not required by the jurisdiction, Yingling also offers a similar incentive to his department’s permit technicians who obtain their ICC Permit Technician certification.
Yingling’s efforts have been paying off. Before he became the county’s building official, his staff had completed three new certifications in 2016. The following year, with the training program in place and new staff coming aboard, his inspectors completed 22 certifications. In 2018, they obtained 39. Furthermore, the value of the program is recognized by Greenville County’s elected officials, fire marshals, and commercial and residential tenants.
“We’re selling this as a way of providing a service to our design professionals and our building community,” said Yingling. “We’re able to tell them that we are going to help them eliminate costly mistakes in the field and that, as a result, they will have a safe building environment.”
International Code Council Government Relations Regional Manager Stephen Jones is impressed with the results of Yingling’s program. “I have to believe that it’s probably one of the most innovative ways of doing promotions within the department and encouraging people to advance in their careers,” said Jones. “The idea is to entice a whole new generation of leaders and getting people to understand that being a code official is a huge opportunity for them.”
Yingling agrees, saying that the incentive program has had a positive impact on his department’s morale and productivity. “When people are all rowing in the same direction, you sure can cover a lot of ground.”