The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) will be offering online testing starting in 2020 for the last of the Landscape Industry Certified designations, opening up the ability for landscape professionals to take the exterior technician test nationwide.

Previously, the Landscape Industry Certified Exterior Technician was only offered in a written and hands-on method that was administered through 15 state licensee partners. The various state associations would put on the hands-on event with stations set up at each of the testing areas with certified volunteers judging the candidate through the process.

Some states only provided this event once a year while other states would host the test more often. The test was not available in the other 35 states, making it a challenge for landscapers to earn their exterior technician certification.

“The online platform offers candidates nationwide (not just in selected states) to participate in the program; removing the barrier of access,” says Skip Thompson, CEO of TideWater Landscape Management and chair of NALP’s International Certification Council. “With the online platform, all the costs associated with travel and time off from work are eliminated.”

The Landscape Industry Certified credential has been offered since 1996 as a way for those in the industry to distinguish themselves and prove they have the skills and expertise customers are looking for.

“The Landscape Industry Certified designation confirms that you have acquired the knowledge and that you are a competent, capable, skilled and experienced professional,” Thompson says. “It is a National Certification that can be used across the country if you relocate. It also will allow the companies with certified staff to promote and separate themselves in proposals, marketing, as well as the opportunity to achieve the Accredited Company designation.”

The other certification categories include business manager, interior technician, horticulture technician, lawn care manager and lawn care technician. All of the other tests are administered online. Similar to the other online tests, the exterior technician exam will be timed.

The exterior technician exam has five specialty areas to choose from: Softscape Installation, Hardscape Installation, Turf Maintenance, Ornamental Maintenance or Irrigation.

“The exterior technician program assumes that the test candidate is a seasoned landscape technician; one who has through experience learned the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities required for that position,” Thompson says. “The purpose of the exterior technician program is to validate that the candidate has fulfilled the requirements for the program.”

NALP has worked on creating this online test through a methodical process. The organization conducted occupational analysis, reviewed existing documentation regarding required KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities), developed test specifications that included dividing the specialties into domains, subdomains, requirement weighting, and test length. NALP also trained item writers, developed test items, reviewed and revised test items and performed the cut score process.

“With the NALP board directive to the International Certification Council, the new format was developed with the utmost attention to detail,” Thompson says. “This has been a process ongoing for the past two years. Where industry subject matter experts have worked defining the profession not someone from the outside defining what it means to be a landscape professional.”

The test will cover all the areas of the current hands-on test in a variety of methods including drag and drop, sequential order, video review, identification, and multiple choice.

Environmental Management, Inc., based in Plain City, Ohio, volunteered to help NALP with filming the exterior technician video portions of the new test.

Thompson says there’s been some concern that the online test will not be able to properly gauge a candidate’s skill levels without a hands-on portion, but he says this will not be an issue.

“The hands-on test evaluates the candidate based on one observation; the benefit of the written format is that several questions and question types can be used to evaluate that the candidate has a full understanding of the task at hand,” Thompson says.

The cost of the online test isn’t set yet, but Thompson says that it is in line with all the other professional certifications currently offered by NALP.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, the exterior technician test will be available online through NALP. Landscapers can take the test in any location with a webcam-enabled computer and it is administered by a live online proctor.

NALP advises that if you are in the process of getting your certification, check the testing schedule in the state where you plan to take the written and hands-on test to ensure that you can complete the testing by Dec. 31, 2019.

“We are getting calls daily asking when the new platform will debut and with the support of our certification partners we look forward to new possibilities,” Thompson says.

Jill Odom
Total Landscape Care
November 18, 2019
Photo: Pxhere