Greater Mobility: Examining NASCLA’s Exams for ECs

In August 2018, the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) launched the nationally recognized accredited trade examinations for electrical contractors and electricians. This new licensing program was four years in the making, and it provides mobility for licensed ECs and electricians. Louisiana is the first state to adopt it, and others are certain to follow.

NASCLA now offers three separate open-book electrical trade examinations through the NASCLA Accredited Electrical Examination Program. These exams are intended for ECs (master/unlimited electricians), journeyman electricians and residential electricians/residential ECs.

Where accepted, the NASCLA Accredited Electrical Examination Program enables licensed electricians to move quickly between jurisdictional lines for normal electrical contracting, to help during disasters and to help meet demand in states with a high need but limited supply of qualified electricians. The shared exams also reduce the need for electricians to invest significant time, money and stress traveling to different states to take multiple exams for licenses. Once a candidate has taken and passed a NASCLA Accredited Examination, their information is stored in the NASCLA National Examination Database. Candidates can send their transcript electronically to inform a regulatory agency that they have passed one or more of the examinations. Reciprocating regulatory agencies can attach the transcript with the candidate’s license application.

The road to here

The NASCLA Accredited Examination Program was developed to meet the needs of regulatory agencies across the country and to improve the overall consistency, quality and validity of trade licensing examinations. Since its launch in 2009, the NASCLA Accredited Examination for Commercial General Building Contractors offers a streamlined test-taking option for the trade portion requirement of a Commercial General Building Contractors license. The program now has 17 out of 21 possible state agencies offering the commercial general contractor classification, including states and territories, administering or accepting the examination.

With the success of this examination, a milestone in NASCLA history, the NASCLA Accredited Examination Program Committee conducted a survey in 2013 to determine interest in a new national or multistate examination for each trade. The committee agreed that the electrical contractors and journeyman electricians trade would benefit the most from a NASCLA Accredited Examination.

From there, the committee sought the cooperation and support of several industry stakeholders, including the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). The committee decided to pursue development of three separate, but related, examinations for electrical work: electrical contractor, journeyman electrician, and residential electrical contractor.

To create a unified effort, NASCLA invited major electrical industry associations and organizations to the Accredited Examination Program Committee meeting at its 2014 conference. The purpose was to gather feedback (positive and negative) from the electrical industry representatives about the electrical examination development.

Attendees included NECA, the National Fire Protection Association, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the Electronic Security Association, Independent Electrical Contractors and the Telecommunications Industry Association. NASCLA state member licensing agencies and associate member attendees, including The Home Depot and Sears Home Improvement, also were there.

The group identified and nominated electrical practitioners that could serve as subject matter experts (SMEs), and attendees discussed procedures to create a unified approach for electrical examinations.

After the 2014 conference, NASCLA conducted a national job analysis for the electrician classifications: electrical contractor, journeyman electricians, and residential electrical contractors. Based on the job analyses, the SMEs developed 950 questions, blueprints and graphics under the highest national psychometric and electrical standards.

In May 2016, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated there were 1,487,890 individuals working in electrical professions in the United States. This was the trade for which the survey indicated the most interest in an exam, and electricians are more commonly known for moving between states than the other trades that were being considered, lending more support for the need of this program.

In late 2017, the NASCLA Board of Directors chose a server-hosting company to administer the examinations through its secure platform. Over the past year, the staff has built the exams, created candidate information bulletins, finalized the Test Development Report, and written tutorials for testing providers and state agencies. In addition, SMEs and state agency staff members have pretested the examinations, and all edits have been made to the platform for a clean distribution method.

On Aug. 28, 2018, the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors officially became the first state agency to formally adopt the EC and journeyman electrician examinations within the NASCLA Accredited Electrical Examination Program for use in their state.

The next step for the administration process and acceptance is to market the trade examinations to the regulatory agencies. To become a NASCLA Approved Administration Provider, regulatory agencies that adopt the exams will need to establish a secure testing environment for candidates following the NASCLA Psychometric Criteria. 

Respecting sovereignty

While the NASCLA Accredited Electrical Examination Program provides a shared standard for examinations, it is not intended to create a national license. Each regulatory agency will maintain its sovereignty and control its own state licensing requirements to include processes such as background checks, financials, applications and a state business and law examination, where applicable.

For regulatory agencies, the NASCLA Accredited Electrical Examination Program enables states to share a common standard, so that each state can review exam results from other states with the assurance that the results meet their own standards. In addition, because the regulatory agencies will use the NASCLA Accredited Electrical Examination Program in place of their existing trade examinations, the agencies determine the fee charged in their state. NASCLA also recognizes that many states do not have electrical licensing programs, so these exams could even serve as a licensing model for possible future adoption in their jurisdictions.

More about NASCLA

NASCLA (nascla.org) is a nonprofit corporation that was formed in 1962 and is dedicated to assisting its members in regulating construction contractors. The association’s membership comprises executive directors, board of directors and staff from state agencies that regulate the business of contracting along with national trade associations and those involved in the construction industry.

For more information about the NASCLA Accredited Electrical Examination Program, visit nascla.org/page/ElectricalExams. This page contains FAQs, has a video of the development process, and offers a brochure detailing the overall content outline for each exam.

About the Author

Michael Johnston

Executive Director of Standards and Safety, NECA

Michael Johnston is NECA’s executive director of standards and safety. He is chair of the NEC Technical Correlating Committee. He served as a principal representative on NEC CMP-5 representing IAEI for the 2002, 2005, and 2008 cycles and is currently...

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