Seven Questions with Jim C.
Q: How does your industry background transfer to the home inspections training industry?
A: My twenty years as an instructor at NAIT and most recently, my one-year contract with SAIT, have provided me with the opportunity to design learning and develop curriculum to meet intended industry objectives. Coursework has included such concepts as plumbing and hydronic heating installations and maintenance in a domestic context. These key understandings are foundational to the training program for the home inspection industry. Throughout my career as an instructor, I had additional opportunities to create and implement a number of specific plumbing related courses for foreign students who were preparing to immigrate to Canada. As an experienced journeyman plumber, gasfitter, steamfitter/pipefitter in the field, I was directly responsible for the regular inspection of my team’s installations in order to ensure they met standards set out for our industry so I am very aware of the importance of clearly defining expectations for quality workmanship.
Q: What made you want to get involved with the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors?
A: When I saw that the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors was putting together a national course, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it because I believe that purchasing a home is the largest investment most people will make in their lifetimes. Having the piece of mind that the home has been inspected is important; however, that is not enough. I need to feel confident that the individual responsible for the home inspection possesses a thorough understanding of all that this process entails. This is possible when an inspector has completed the course requirements from a rigorous, well-designed training program making it possible for the potential homeowner to have confidence and trust when making the decision to hire a home inspector. I recently sold my own home and a home inspector was involved in the process. The inspector raised more questions regarding the heating system in my home than I’ve had from students during courses I have instructed. I had installed a high efficiency hot water boiler, high temperature loops for a domestic water heater, a garage unit heater, low temperature in floor heating, and fan coil unit. I thought that a home inspector should have a basic knowledge of hydronic heating systems. Unfortunately, this individual did not. I realize that a home inspector cannot be an expert in all aspects of the different systems within a home, but I believe it is important for these individuals to have the understanding that they can always be learning to improve their practice.
Q: What are the challenges of putting together a national home inspector training program such as the one created by the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors?
A: The biggest challenge with any kind of program such as this is understanding how to break down complex systems into smaller pieces that students can comprehend. This is not a four year apprenticeship that has fifteen hundred hours of work experience between technical training. The fact that a national training program will encompass so many different regions, climates and types of building construction is daunting to say the least. I believe that while we’ve put together a comprehensive program, it is impossible to include every aspect of home inspection across the country. This is why having student feedback from all regions across Canada is so important. This will provide the opportunity to tailor the course according to the unique regions in Canada. Working with the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors, I found that I had to balance between going too deep on a subject, or not going deep enough. The saying, “obvious to some, amazing to others” comes to mind. I feel this was achieved.
Q: What was the most enjoyable part for you with your contribution to the development of the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors.
A: I enjoyed the opportunity to contribute my experience with the hope that inspectors will gain the necessary knowledge to create confidence in the home buying process for more people in Canada. Having a high standard for their graduates, the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors will produce highly skilled and motivated inspectors.
Q: If you could solve one trades related issue in Canada, what would it be?
A: I would say the biggest problem with the trades is that people think they can perform the necessary work with little or no training. When this happens, especially in home renovations when people are trying to save money, the purchaser of the home can be saddled with costly repairs resulting from an unskilled individual undertaking these renovations. Having a well-trained inspector will assist the consumer in becoming aware of any issues that could cost thousands of dollars to fix. I would like to see every municipality across Canada adopt common standards requiring that their inspection and permit practices have the same high expectations.
Q: What do you feel makes an effective training program for home inspections?
A: All training programs have text and pictures to support the understanding of concepts. If this alone could guarantee successful completion of the training program, there would be self-study courses and no need to include face-to-face instruction. However, it is my opinion that what really makes the difference in providing a strong program is the quality of the instructor standing in front of the class. A good instructor does not simply deliver the content to all individuals in the same, standard manner. Rather, a good instructor asks the appropriate questions to elicit responses from students, gauging the learning needs of individual students. Additionally, a good instructor understands that by having the students work together, the instructor can guide the learning using both the experiences of the students and the instructor as ways to provide more meaningful learning. This, along with the proper visual content, allows the instructor to provide a program that keeps the students’ interest and sees them achieving at a higher level.
Q: Do you believe that the material written in the Canadian Institute of Home Inspectors is done in such a way that while comprehensive; it is not restrictive to an individual with limited trades experience?
A: YES. The content of the program has been produced in a manner that leads the students through the construction techniques used in yesterday and today’s homes. An individual who is interested in a career in home inspections should have some knowledge of Canadian building construction and practices. It is not necessary to be a certified trades person. What would be recommended is for individuals to possess some mechanical aptitude and a keen eye to determine if the items inspected are up to standard. It is the home inspector who serves as the last line of defense for people who are making possibly the biggest financial investment of their lives.