Masters of Code: Ian Lehrer achieves the gold standard of code certification
It’s considered the Ph.D. of building safety codes certification. The Master Code Professional (MCP) is the highest level of designation the International Code Council offers and is the “gold standard” for demonstrating proficiency in the code profession. The Code Council has certified thousands of individuals, but only a small select number have attained this high level of achievement: just over 900 MCP professionals worldwide. Their achievements are a benefit to the code enforcement profession as well as their communities.
To obtain this level of certification requires and demonstrates a commitment to the profession, diverse knowledge of codes and a high level of self-initiative. Ian Lehrer is the latest to join the elite group of Master Code Professionals. In this exclusive feature for the Building Safety Journal, we asked Ian to share his experience on obtaining the MCP designation, highlights of his professional career and any insights or advice he has concerning the industry.
Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, United States
BSJ: What led you to pursue and obtain MCP certification?
Lehrer: When I came onboard to PFS TECO, I came from a manufacturing background where I had the general concepts and ideas, but I lacked the credentials to indicate that I had the knowledge to handle code enforcement. I spent many nights and weekends pursuing the credentials for building plan review and inspection where I kept going after the next certification. I used these certifications to show the industry that I knew what I was working with and what I was talking about. These certifications were a stepping stone to many states that had a reciprocity type licensure for those who had ICC certifications. I went after all the certifications I needed to be able to best support my company and be as flexible as possible. With the ICC certifications and the state-specific exams that I needed to take, studying the codes and taking exams became the norm for me. Once I obtained all the certifications, I picked my head up and looked and realized that I was very close to obtaining the Master Code Professional designation. In explaining to my company what that meant and what I needed to get me to that final step, we determined that this would help separate me and our company out of the pack and put us out there; that we know what the codes mean and that we have the certifications to back it up.
BSJ: How did you study and prepare for the many exams you took as a part of your MCP designation?
Lehrer: This is by far the most interesting question for me. I spent about a month studying the Commercial Plan Review exam before I walked in and took the exam. I just reviewed the codebook and some study material I found before I took the exam. After I took the first exam, I gained quite a bit of confidence in my test-taking abilities so my next exam was only one week after my B3 exam; I took the Mechanical Plans Examiner exam (M3) nine days later. From there, my confidence soared and I realized that I knew how to use the codebooks and that I could take almost any exam that utilized them. I had learned how to use the codebooks to quickly find what I was looking for and I had enough knowledge of the industry at that point to know what we were talking about. I learned how to use the index and the table of contents to answer the ICC exam questions quickly. I would answer the questions that I knew right away and then proceed to look up the ones I needed. At this time, I have taken 21 ICC exams within the past two years to obtain 32 ICC certifications. This doesn’t include the state-specific exams. Otherwise, I have taken eight other exams to obtain credentials in multiple states to bring the total credential listing up to 62 credentials nationwide (including PE licensure in 10 other states as well).
BSJ: What does achieving the prestigious MCP status mean to you?
Lehrer: Achieving the MCP meant quite a bit to me. It meant that I had what it takes to do building plan review and inspection. It meant that I possessed the knowledge to be able to accurately work with builders and other code officials to ensure consistent code application. It meant that I could show others that the path to MCP was achievable and that you could do it if you put your mind to it. I now wear the MCP sweatshirt around the office with pride and I wear the MCP pin when I am out in public at seminars.
BSJ: How would you describe the value or benefits that have come with the recognition of your MCP status?
Lehrer: I can’t explain the value and sheer confidence that I feel from the MCP status. To me, the MCP status is a huge confidence booster. It also helps me in conversations I have with others in the industry when the issue of credentials come up. When everyone in the group starts talking about how long they have been doing it and a few chime in with their credentials, I can come back and say that I am an MCP and it usually stops the status show-boating dead in its tracks. It helps the group focus on the code and what the problem at hand is instead of who has what credentials.
BSJ: What advice would you offer to those who are considering pursuing an MCP designation?
Lehrer: If you are considering going for the MCP, absolutely go for it! There is no time like the present to obtain the MCP status! I love the life-long learning that the MCP presents and when you take into consideration that exams only get harder, and it gets harder and harder to take exams over time, go for the MCP now if you are considering it. I would also say not to necessarily focus on the MCP credential right away as each of the required credentials has an important part in the building industry. Focus on the credential at hand, the importance of it, and the details that make it important and the MCP will fall into place as you continue your credentialing path.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Lehrer: Two years.
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Lehrer: Over time, I have been seeing the industry adopt the ICC codes more and more. With that, I have seen more and more states going towards the ICC credentials as a means to minimize overhead on their own state-specific exams and credentialing. Each and every month, I find another state that has allowed the use of ICC credentials as a means to obtain licensure in that state. As each state adopts more and more ICC credentials, you will find that having the MCP already sets you up for almost every other state or municipal department. Having the ICC credentials and MCP status puts you leaps and bounds ahead of most of the industry and makes you more resilient as a professional in an industry that keeps cutting positions or has difficulty in finding the right person for a position. Having the MCP designation makes you stand out from the crowd and bolsters your confidence in your ability to find work over time.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Lehrer: Being in the modular manufacturing industry, I am excited to see the quality of modular buildings surpass many traditional stick-built buildings. The modular buildings need to not only work as a building system, but they need to hold up to the rigors of potholes and highway transportation in pieces! Looking at today’s world events, I foresee the modular industry to be the answer for businesses to be able to meet their construction timelines. The modular industry is the only one that can swell to accommodate the surge of building necessary buildings such as hospitals and hotels in such a short timeline. I am very excited to be able to offer support to businesses who are looking to keep their timelines and costs in check; now and in the future. The modular industry isn’t what it used to be; it can build you exactly what you need typically for less than traditional stick-built and faster than on-site construction!
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Lehrer: Get your credentials now! It will only get harder over time. Also, while it seems like the building construction industry is taking a hiatus, use this time to prepare yourself and your business for the boom that will follow shortly thereafter. In times like we are in now, take advantage of the time to better yourself and your business and look for that idea that will better your community with the service or product you are contemplating. You will find that you are in a better situation financially as a result of providing what is necessary. Don’t take advantage of people or events, but find your niche in helping society prosper and you will prosper too.
BSJ: Building safety is the focal point of our mission here at the Code Council. What is the importance of building safety to you? How has ICC helped you in your career and commitment to public safety?
Lehrer: I have found myself looking to the codes to ensure public safety through the implementation and enforcement of the building codes as minimum standards. Having the credentials and taking the exams has shown me the minimum codes are there for public safety. It is my duty to uphold these standards for everyone around me and for my personal safety as the buildings are used. I find myself, more and more, looking around at the buildings I walk into (not in a professional capacity) and noting the good and bad. I take more notice to see the features that are part of the code and point them out to the people around me. I find myself interacting more with building operators in a positive light explaining why things are the way they are and, occasionally, what things they need to do and why.
BSJ: Obtaining all those ICC certifications is quite an accomplishment. What are you going to do now that you have achieved this goal?
Lehrer: Honestly, it’s business as usual here at PFS TECO. I use these credentials to do building plan review and inspection so my role is now more flexible than ever to support our business and clients in the most timely and financially sound manner. I can go out and fill in gaps when they need to be filled in and I continue to help out where it is needed. With the number of certifications, I can help fill in where I need to in order to keep things moving.
BSJ: Thank you, Ian, and congratulations. You have definitely been an encouragement to us all in your pursuit of excellence.
To earn the Code Council’s elite MCP designation, a candidate must first pass 10 core Code Council exams plus a number of elective Code Council exams. Typical Master Code Professionals hold 17 or more Code Council certifications. The Master Code Professional designation requires certified individuals to complete an additional 60 hours of Continuing Education Units every three years to maintain active status.
“The Master Code Professional certification is the pinnacle of all Code Council certifications, representing a level of effort, knowledge, and dedication that elevates not only the individual achieving it but the code official profession as a whole,” said Code Council Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims, CBO.
Master Code Professionals are typically responsible for all technical and management aspects of code enforcement with duties that range from the management of a code enforcement department to the supervision of inspectors and plan reviewers.
“Congratulations to Ian on achieving this important and significant accomplishment,” said Autumn Saylor, program services manager of the Code Council’s Assessment Center. “I challenge and encourage all code professionals to strive for this level of achievement, and I look forward to congratulating more Master Code Professionals in the future.”
To learn more about how you can join this elite group and let us help you open the door to increased professional challenges and career advancement, click here.