As a TEA-certified educator, I understand the value of an objective standard for producing quality learning content. It's imperative for producing a specific outcome. It also helps reduce wasted time and money on the way to deploying a new product.
Unfortunately, while the TCEQ plays an invaluable function in the health and safety of Texans, they aren't necessarily education specialists. This is why developing on-demand training courses for water and wastewater operators isn't always a walk in the park. We believe TCEQ-approved continuing education shouldn't suck influent, and we're building a business on that belief. Similarly, course approval processes shouldn't, either.
Here's why you probably shouldn't create on-demand courses for the TCEQ.
1. The Review Process is Wildly Subjective
Apart from what the state requires a course to cover, the TCEQ's review process is without an objective standard. This makes satisfying the TCEQ more a matter of negotiation—an unnecessarily long process that business owners have the privilege of paying $25/CE hour for. And while due diligence appears to help, quality alone doesn't appear to satisfy the TCEQ.
Take our experience with getting our first 12 on-demand courses approved for example.
Never once were we asked to close a gap in our content relative to the state standard. The same can be said of our industry references (e.g., OSHA standards and TAC references)—all were up-to-date as of their submission on 24 December 2020. Add in a picture-to-slide ratio that would make a TEEX manual blush and we thought we were really cookin'.
We couldn't have been more wrong.
In fact, the greatest resistance from the TCEQ centered on configuration variables (e.g., slide timers, picture-to-slide ratios, etc.)—none of which is connected to any TCEQ rule.
What does this mean for you and your dream of opening a TCEQ-approved training business? Your products can—at any time—run afoul of someone's subjective standard. And this is the case whether they're previously approved or not.
If you like your business being held hostage, build a course for the TCEQ.
2. It Wastes Valuable Time
The TCEQ has six months to review each course submitted, whether it's a half-hour course or a 20-hour course. As data on turnaround times aren't available, it's unclear if any TCEQ-approved training provider has managed to get their content approved in less than six months. One thing we know for sure: we've never heard of a provider being approved in less than five months, regardless of course length.
Perhaps that's how the TCEQ likes it, though? Reporting on turnaround times might set an expectation in the community of predictable service intervals. Once taxpayers get ideas they should be served, bureaucrats tend to sweat.
No matter, though. Even if there is an objective standard, the average training provider can't see it. This means the TCEQ can drag out the process while continuing to negotiate for subjective additions until time runs out or you relent.
If you like the idea of sitting on your hands for six months after developing a product for your business, build a course for the TCEQ.
3. It's Expen$ive
Money makes the world go 'round. And while the State of Texas is the world's 9th largest economy (narrowly losing out to Italy at 8th place), it apparently doesn't collect enough tax dollars to fund the agency it created to train water and wastewater professionals. Therefore, fees are a fact of life.
At a cost of $25/CE hour, a 20-hour course is a $500 investment. And while that may not seem like a lot to some, consider that most Americans don't have $1,000 stored in their savings accounts.
"What business doesn't incur startup costs?" you might ask. It's a fair question. After all, it's not like outfitting a coffee bar with a $21,000 espresso machine (Yes, they exist and I couldn't believe it, either.). Then again, we don't fund the Ministry of Coffee with our taxes, so I wouldn't expect much help there.
If you like paying the government to do the job your tax dollars were meant to, build a course for the TCEQ.
Creating on-demand courses for the TCEQ is rewarding to be sure, but it's not for the faint of heart. Truly, creating courses isn't all that challenging if you have the right tools. Getting them approved with your sanity, wallet, and schedule intact might be another thing altogether.