The International Association of Field Service Technicians (IAFST) is near completion of their Educational Portal titled IAFST University. Foreclosurepedia sat down and interviewed Senior IAFST Leadership and they stated they are looking for a beta roll out on 31 March 2021. To that point, IAFST University is the first Trade Association developed educational system targeting the Labor sector in the history of the Mortgage Field Services Industry. The below is the Q & A session between Foreclosurepedia and the IAFST.
Why is a Labor centric educational certification program needed?
Great opening question. Two reasons. The first reason is that, on average, a minimum of 20 hours are dedicated to vetting a potential contractor. This would include verifying the experience they have; if they have GLI and E&O; if their references check out and such. Right? Then the issue creeps up that Jonnie may have worked for ABC Company and just never got with the program. That is where the real problem arises. Look, legally a Client cannot train a Vendor. Period. Granted, a bunch of them do and their work orders all certainly operate like they are working employees, but from a liability position in light of AB5 in California and the recent legislation that just passed the US House of Representatives and is in front of the US Senate — HR2474 and I think you wrote about that in an article I caught last week — the issue is with the enormous collapse of taxation revenue, municipal, county, state and federal governments are looking for cash.
So, how does the IAFST propose to get around these seemingly written in stone guidelines?
The deal with AB5 or HR2474 is that if you have an EIN, great. If you have an LLC, great. None of that matters. If you do not have a distinct trade license for your field, you are an employee. Gets better, though. So, things like arbitration — at least in HR2474 — are removed and they put one hell of an emphasis of marrying this train to the NLRB. When we spoke with the State of California they were keen in how we instituted a DUNS and SAM Account registration for our Membership and then combined that with the educational curriculum. The DUNS and SAM were simply the cherry on top, so to speak. The continuing education and the ability to uniquely track it was what they felt was the determining factor.
Will there ever be a move to become accredited in the literal sense or will this always remain an Industry based certification?
We have been in preliminary discussions with the US Department of Education pertaining to our non-degree programs primarily through the distance and correspondence education method up to and including Master Certification. Our ultimate goal is to become certified for accreditation for Title IV purposes.
Foreclosurepedia was given a walk though on some of the high points of the system and why several firms have already pre-ordered for their crews.
The Course is the foundation, right? So, within the Course you have Lessons. The Lessons are feature rich with things like video, written documentation, tons of graphics — basically just like the lessons everyone is taking today online. Within the Lessons, you have the ability to engage with the student at many levels such as Zoom, issue and receive written reports which we call Assignments, and chat. And then the Quizzes end the Lesson. The Quizzes we are pretty excited about. First, there are multiple ways to deliver it. You can have true or false, single answer, multiple answers, fill in the blank, match items to other items — it’s pretty well rounded. We have the ability to track grades and overall comprehension just like in an educational institution setting.
We also inquired about how the whole Course was maintained and how both Contractors and Clients know that the cirriculum is current and relevant.
So, quarterly we review the Courses in our portfolio by comparing the cirriculum and quizzing to public and private datasets. While much of our material does not require updating such as say a cubic yard will always be the same, items like how the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) codifies the Mortgagee Letter or perhaps how specific phone applications work may need to be modified. Additionally, as we allow both Client specific and Instructor centric education, we are continually evaluating both their needs as well as their qualifications.
How does the Certification process work and what about their portability?
So, that’s a great question. As you know, portability is built in to anything which is open source. That was the cornerstone of our model. Our software is open source, for example, although our cirriculum is proprietary. With that said, we realized that one of the biggest problems in the Mortgage Field Services Industry is this absolute stonewalling of data sharing. You see this all over the place like the refusal to create a Universal Work Order — such as what you suggested on Foreclosurepedia or say Ed Delgado wrote a White Paper on for the Five Star Institute. To that point, Aspen Grove has an ABC Number which purportedly runs a background check, right? The problem is that unless you are part of the Good ‘Ol Boy Network, it is impossible to verify. That’s a big problem. And while we realized that some information should be private — say actual grades and such — Certifications need to be public. Think of it like how the US Government allows you to search and view Contractors via their DUNS or Cage code.
We looked at how those systems operate and built a proprietary system which allows for the searching of Contractors based upon multiple vectors such as their name, company, and location. So, publicly we display certain types of information which are relevant depending upon whether or not the Contractor is an IAFST Member. At bare minimum, the person’s name, company name, location, and Certifications are publicly accessible.
Building on this, we have developed ID Cards on lanyards for our IAFST Members. The cool thing on these is that it utilizes NFC and RFID technology. Think of NFC as how you pay for something at the store by tapping your credit card and don’t have to swipe. So, this became really useful in the field. Law enforcement would arrive at a trash out and hassle our Members stating that anyone could print out a work order, right? Well, you can tap the cards to any phone — Android or iOS — and it pulls up your public facing file which includes all of your information including your Certifications.
What are the long term integration plans were for the IAFST Certification process?
Integration is really just a flashy term. Integrating data from one pool to another is fairly simple, right? And while the Industry has been silo centric, our goal is to free up the data and make it both meaningful and accessible to all. I mean all you are really doing to move data is either using an API or creating a simple script to push or pull from a hook. To that point, the IAFST is amicable with setting up access which will allow such. Long term, the idea will be to marry the Certification check — depending on work order type — as a layer to protect against liability. Say you are performing a Initial Default Inspection. When the work order is issued out, it pings our system to make sure that John Doe does, indeed, have a Certification to perform those. So, you shift the liability from Client to Vendor. Additionally, though, that documentation of Certifications, built upon continuing education, ensures that the Client is insulated from any litigation with respect to employee misclassification. It’s a win win situation.
We asked if the IAFST was looking towards building out material that was specific to one company or another.
Yeah, so the overall concept, as we discussed earlier, is to have a pool of base Courses for entry level personnel and a way for them to build upon that cirriculum much like an Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master. So, removing debris and how it is documented is pretty much the same everywhere. Each Client, though, has a specific way they want the product delivered. Some Clients want date – time stamped photos; some Clients want different forms than others; and some Clients like say Fannie Mae or HUD have complicated work flows. We are willing to speak with anyone about providing the Certifications; however, there will always be exceptions to whom we may or may not admit into our program.
What will the pricing look like?
The vast majority of the Apprentice level courses will all be around nine dollars. Only a handful of Certifications are necessary to establish the threshold for independent contractor status — roughly between $18 and $27 depending upon whether you are a Field Service Technician, Inspector or both. The great thing here — and we are already working with a National Client on this — is that there is Enterprise level billing. In essence, if you are a Client with ten or more Contractors we reduce the price, even more, and all your Contractor needs to do is simply enter a one time code.
Obviously, for Journeyman and Master level Courses, the fees go up. There is far more cirriculum involved. There are real world applications as well as in field assessments at the Master’s level.
Overall, from a pricing level, we are unaware of any platform which is available today, that delivers the quality, quantity and overall liability protection which the IAFST University provides.
Foreclosurepedia will continue to monitor their progress and bring you updates as they come in.