Mixed Emotions

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by Turf Dawg, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. Turf Dawg

    Turf Dawg LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,719

    I know some states do not require irrigation license and others do. Mine does, Texas, and also if you have employees that you want to leave on site, send unattended on service calls, multiple installs, ect..... then they must have a irrigation tech license.
    I have stated before that our course and test is for the technical side but really no "real world experiance".
    Some have said they feel you should have to apprentice under someone for a few years. I agree somewhat but not entirely.
    Some of the negatives
    I would have not been able to do this while running my own landscape business.
    Most all the "irrigators", even the "old timers" in my area, I would really not want teaching.

    I would rather the course have both classroom and field training. I know Texas A&M has the extension Texas Agri-Life with locations throughout the state. The one in Dallas is large enough that they could have field training.

    What are some of y'all [Texas slang] thoughts.
  2. 1idejim

    1idejim LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,358

    Regardless of the licenses required in Texas, the lack of an actual experience requirement negates the importance of the license.
    4 years of employment in a 10 year period is required before your application for a test date is approved. One would assume that in four years (amounts to 8,000 man hours) one should have a pretty good handle on their trade.
    Not trying to be a jerk but isn't this similar to begining a business and then having the customer pay you to learn on their property?
    How do you think they learned? Many prolly printed some cards, began with repair and ventured on to installs.

    I would think 2-4,000 hours would be a good start. Apprenticeships are usually 4 years and it takes 2-3 more years as a journeyman to have the skills to run crews at a professional level.

    What are some of y'all [Texas slang] thoughts.[/QUOTE]

    Okiedokey, when is the last time that you went to the doctor?

    Next time you go ask him/her where they apprenticed. After going to school for who knows how long they haue to serve an apprenticeship to put their education into real life situations.

    You would throw a fit if a HVAC guy showed at your house and all the experience he had was 40 hrs classroom and passed a state test.

    The scenarios could go on and on and on but you can see my point.

    I see the Texas irrigators licensing program being more beneficial for the state of Texas than for Texans. Your observation of fellow irrigators is a direct result of people teaching themselves on their customers dime.

    Don't get me wrong and think i don't like Texas or Texans, i get calls weekly from irrigators in Texas that have just gotten licenesed or are having issues that i am able to help with. Some of these people have become very good friends.
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  3. Autoflow

    Autoflow LawnSite Member
    Messages: 245

    I can't see the problem with someone testing a system and handing a sheet of problems to an irrigator to fix or even repairing a broken lateral, but when it comes to installing and troubleshooting I think you should be licensed.
    A lot of people call me and ask what I charge. I am not cheap, and some people get turned off with what I charge, but are happy to pay a gardener or landscaper to spend 5 times longer trying to fix their system when I could have had it fixed much faster.

    I have the tools and knowledge to find the problem and fix it quickly, but the guy with zero training and little knowledge gets the job because he is $10-$15 an hour cheaper than me. The HO ends up paying much more than they should have because the authorities allow anyone to work on irrigation systems.

    I then get calls to service a system where there is no backflow prevention at all. I tell the HO it must have backflow and they think I am just trying to get more work for myself. Same goes when bidding. They compare my system with backflow prevention, head to head spacing, pipes in at the proper depth, to a random landscaper who has no backflow, terrible spacing and shallow pipes that turn the pipe into a sieve next time the lawn is aerated. My price is double the other guy.

    Handing out a license simply because someone has completed a heap of theory is also pretty stupid. Nothing beats experience, and I would take someone with 5 years experience as a sidekick over someone who has no experience but has done the course.

    My license is purely for advertising purposes for educated clients who understand that you get what you pay for. The ignorant muppets that don't respect this trade will always go for the cheapest price no matter what the companies experience or qualifications are.

    Should you be licensed to undertake work in this industry? YES.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  4. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Messages: 1,865

    I think some license is better than none and that Tx is more stringent than most of the other states that require licensing. The problem with hands-on training with the current system is that there are simply too many possible scenarios to really teach adequately. Anytime I've brought on a new guy without experience, it's taken a minimum of 3 months before I felt they were competent enough to head out on their own and they would still run into things that they'd need help frequently on for at least another year. I'd love to see an apprenticeship and practical applications testing like the plumbers have because it would insure that the guys with licenses could actually do the work and make the barrier to entry a little higher.

    All that said however, without some real enforcement from the state and local authorities of the licensing laws already on the books, additional requirements are a waste of time. Easily 1/2 the guys working on irrigation systems in Houston don't carry the proper license now and more stringent licensing won't do anything to improve that. I really don't understand why TCEQ doesn't do a better job with this, an enforcement guy could easily collect more than enough in fines to justify their position just by hopping in the truck and driving around town for a week.
  5. DanaMac

    DanaMac LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,226

    Same scenario plays out in every market. There will always be bottom feeders bidding against the elite, knowledgeable, experienced contractors. Find a way to set yourself apart from the bottom feeders, and somehow prequalify them so you don't waste your time bidding based on price.

    I go back and forth with this approach to testing and licensing. No matter if licensing is in place, there will always be guys that pass the test and will eff up a system or repair. Just because a guy holds a license for a particular trade, doesn't mean he will do the job correctly. It happens in every trade and industry - irrigation, plumbers, electricians, doctors, stock brokers and investors. It comes down to quality of the person and ethics, and they can't deny a license for that.

    I do believe a person SHOULD train under someone experienced, but that should be said for any trade or profession. A guy opening a BBQ joint with no training, could sell pork or chicken under cooked and kill someone. But no training is needed to start up a BBQ stand on the corner. Just a license and a fat check to the gov't.

    So in my opinion, it comes down to how much regulation do we really want from our government, especially at a time when everyone is b!tching and moaning about getting the government's hands out of everything. We want the gov't to regulate our specific little industry, but when the gov't tries to oversee and provide health care because it has become too expensive for the masses, then we cry foul. We can't have it both ways all the time.

    Steps down from the soap box, and of into the sunrise for a morning hike :walking:
  6. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 526

    That's my basic feeling as well. I understand regulation to a degree and I can appreciate it, but we are talking about the federal and state government here and these people are arguably the most inefficient working bodies in our country. They have taken something as simple as tax code and turned it into something that you need 6 years of college to reliably accomplish. The idea of a free market is certainly a bit of a charade, but at some point there has to be a caveat emptor as well. The consumer is the owner of the market and they choose the risk to a degree. Just to do business in a 45 mile radius in a mid sized city like I am in it takes anywhere from 15-20 municipality licenses, let's not forget some municipalities require a city license for that area as well, a surety bond in some cases, a state contractors license and then to top it off I get to pay to pull a permit on half the jobs I do. Half the time when checking on latest plumbing and backflow code, when you call a certain municipality you hear the dead air on the phone when you ask such questions. Our government is in the business of collecting checks, they are a horrible enforcement body and for that reason alone the more regulation we have is only going to punish people who follow it. What I have seen pretty commonly here, the more regulation you saddle on small business trades the more people simply say F-IT and just wing it.

    Personally, my business thrives off of jobs done wrong the first time. At the end of the day, it's the consumer's job to do their homework. Im not calling for deregulation, but simplifying legwork should be a must. Finally, the thing that burns me up more than any other. Pulling a permit and not being able to break ground on putting your guys to work on something until another part of the job is inspected first. IE, being told "no, you can't begin trenching and putting pipe in the ground until we see your backflow connection, we will be to your job within 48-72 hours." If you want people in our industry to ignore the rules, simply tell them that they can't let their crew of 4 guys get to work until it's convenient for them to get out to the job and look at it for 3 minutes.
  7. txirrigation

    txirrigation LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 977

    I definitely hate the idea of more regulation, BUT, when the public's health is at risk then it's ok. Irrigation water is some pretty nasty stuff, I couldn't imagine not having a Backflow. Also in a lot if the country water is becoming more of an issue. Both effective and safe systems are installed by irrigators with experience. Irrigation is not rocket science, so I believe 4 yrs is a little much. I believe a year of repair with your stamp on 20 installs while working under another irrigator would suffice.
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  8. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 50,752

    if Texas Inspectors are all that, then no real installer experience is required.
  9. txirrigation

    txirrigation LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 977

    Most inspectors around here are clueless, they all have their "pet" regulations that they enforce to the nth degree. After they are done reaming you a new one for only have 5 1/2" of space between a hardscape and spray head they will overlook the fact that you put drip and sprays on the same zone (we never do that just an example).

    We also have a lovely inspector that will fail you if the hose bibs on the house do not have AVB's installed on them. He reasoning is that irrigation is a "plumbing" permit and any code infractions are the contractors responsibility to correct. This is in spite of the fact that hose bibs have nothing to do with irrigation in TX since we connect to the supply just down stream of the water meter out by the curb.

    They have no clue about proper coverage, hydrozoning, or head performance. All they care about is their "pet" codes and that no water is landing on hardscapes.
  10. 1idejim

    1idejim LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,358

    I hate waste and regulation but
    You're making this sound pretty important, almost health related.
    If one worked on a new system install and or repair/ troubleshoot 5 days a week for a year that's only 260 situations. Since not all situations require a full day but many would last multiple days, let's call 300 situations a years work. That's not a lot of experience
    A well seasoned journeyman will have 10 years under him, that is my opine but i am not alone with that opine
    Perfect way to perpetuate incompetence, many situations would have a hack irrigator teaching hack techniques to a future hack irrigator. I have seen the same in all trades. Irrigation is not unique in that respect.

    There is not a single day that i do not learn something.
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