The Certified Pool & Spa Operator (CPO) certification program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In the last five decades, more than 500,000 pool, spa and hot tub industry professionals have earned this certification, awarded exclusively by the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA).
CPO is the world’s leading education and certification program for keeping pools safer and keeping them open. It provides individuals with the knowledge, techniques and skills required for proper pool operations. CPO certification satisfies state and local jurisdiction requirements for pool operator professionals.
The formal introduction of the CPO certification was a benchmark in the realization that those who operated and managed swimming pools needed some type of formal training to safeguard their patrons. In 1973 the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) took the first steps to develop a program, that could be taught by well qualified aquatic specialists, by introducing a text that covered the basic knowledge an operator might need.
PHTA would like to give a special thank you and tribute to the late Leif Zars, who provided the space and additional resources to NSPF (known as NSPI at the time) when the CPO program was first introduced in San Antonio, Texas, in 1973. Zars was the chair of the national association’s drain cover standard writing committee when it drafted the first standard cited in the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA) that was done with the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP).
By 1978, Zars established the first Instructor School Institute that was held in Dallas, Texas, a move that would allow the CPO course to be offered nationally. Three of the 50 certified candidates (Bruce Carney, Fontaine C. Piper and Phillip Reynolds) became members of the original Instructor Education Committee, and Piper and Reynolds are still part of the PHTA Instructor Assessment Committee to this day.
When NSPF and APSP merged into PHTA in 2019, CPO remained the most popular professional certification in the industry. To meet this high demand and ensure all CPO students receive the highest quality of instruction, PHTA offers the CPO Instructor Assessment School twice a year. Currently, there are more than 700 CPO instructors around the world who provide training in 122 different countries.
Over the years, the CPO certification course materials have been updated and expanded to keep pace with changes in technology and in knowledge. The most significant changes occurred in 2005 and again just recently in 2021 with the introduction of a significantly updated operator’s manual.
“The CPO program continues to be the gold standard by which state health departments develop and define their individual standards,” says Dr. Fontaine C. Piper, dean emeritus of Truman State University and chair of the PHTA Instructor Assessment Committee. “Without the original CPO certification program, the operational quality of aquatic facilities would not be as exceptional as it is today.”
“Congratulations to PHTA on the 50th anniversary of the CPO program!” says Zach Skinner, chair of the CPO Advisory Council. “I took my first CPO certification course in 2000, and I continue to be amazed at the opportunities for lifelong learning within this community 23 years later. Serving as the chair of the CPO Advisory Council has made it even more evident how CPO certification provides structure and framework to assist swimming pool operators and improves safety for guests. I look forward to continued program growth and expansion in years to come.”
“I have that honor of being able to help new CPOs in their journey to service their customers and to help new instructors formulate their own unique style to teach the CPO course,” says Wayne Ivusich, vice chair of the CPO Advisory Council and member of the PHTA Instructor Assessment Committee. “After 31 years in the industry, I’ve seen and experienced an incredible wave of needed education and am happy to be a small part of that wave. Congratulations on the 50th anniversary of the CPO program, and here’s to 50 more!”
The 50th anniversary will be celebrated throughout the year, culminating in the 50th Anniversary Luncheon Celebration at the 2023 World Aquatic Health Conference, November 13 through the 15 in Las Vegas, Nev.