By Virginia Carrig, Ulster BOCES

In last month’s ISPQ Insider, Virginia Carrig,  Renewable Energy Coordinator and Operations Manager for the Ulster Adult Career Education Center, a division of Ulster BOCES, wrote about the preparation of the ISPQ application and identified teamwork, persistence, and organization as key components in getting the job done.  According to Carrig, these same qualities guided her through the Desk Audit and the Site Visit.  Here’s part 2 of the ISPQ Application Process: the site visit.

The Desk Audit

Just as you’ve wiped the sweat from your brow and exhaled, you’ll get word that an Auditor assigned to your application will proceed with a Desk Audit.  This detailed assessment of your work takes about a month and involves a thorough review of the application for content, completeness, and clarity.  The auditor will communicate via email if she needs additional information or has questions about any portion of your application.

The On-Site Audit

Any organization seeking Program Accreditation or any instructor seeking certification as an Independent Master Trainer will be required to undergo an on-site audit.  You’ll have about four months to prepare for this event, but in reality, preparation begins when you complete Tier 1.3 Tools, Equipment, and Hardware Requirements of the ISPQ application (if not before).

Not sure if your program will pass muster?  Start with a tour of the training facility and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have adequate classrooms and labs?
  • What type of teaching hardware is available?
  • Is your lab space organized by work station?
  • What kind of system components, tools, and safety equipment are available for hands-on training?
  • Do you have an adequate supply of system components to build a working model?
  • Is the quantity and quality sufficient for proper training?

I found IREC’s Renewable Energy Training Best Practices Recommended Guidelines to be an invaluable resource for this purpose.  I compared our inventory to the list of equipment recommendations for PV training compiled by Jerry Ventre (page 21).  Then I met with our instructional staff and advisory board members for feedback, and our administration for approval, before adding training materials to our classroom/lab.  (The IREC guide also contains recommended equipment lists for Solar Water Heating and Wind training programs.)

In the days leading up to the site visit, the reviewer will send an agenda of her expectations for the day. Be prepared to fully disclose details of your program history and training statistics as well as relevant employee and student records.  Our site visit took place while a PV technology class was underway, so our auditor, Pat Fox, took the opportunity to perform a teaching observation as well.

The days before our school’s site visit, I obsessed like a new bride planning her first dinner for the in-laws.  Were our records in order?  Was the classroom clean and organized?  Was the media equipment functioning properly? Was the photovoltaic hardware stored neatly?

In the end, we were meticulously prepared, and one month later the fruits of our labor came in the form of a letter from IREC Executive Director, Jane Weissman telling us that our Application for Training Program Accreditation had been approved.  I’ll be honest–I was relieved it was over, but more thrilled that we were successful, a glorious  satisfying experience and accomplishment.

Still nervous? Do your homework, pay attention to the details, review, review and review again. Yes, you, too, can do it.