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Rental Essentials: Getting Some Class

In our June 2001 issue, we gave details on the new Certified Event Rental Professional Program from ARA. The program aims to raise the professional standing of the event rental industry by offering a structured, self-guided education program that provides an overview of party rental plus focused study in various specialties.

One year later, 25 rental professionals have earned CERP certification, awarded at a gala ceremony during the ARA show in New Orleans in February. Another 160 are at work on the program, according to Craig Weiss, ARA director of training and education. Here is a rundown on reactions from the first crop of graduates:


John Dunne, vice president of warehouse operations for The Meetinghouse Companies, based in Elmhurst, Ill., chose Warehouse Management as one of his CERP training specialties. Having been in special events for 17 years and in his present role for five years, Dunne says the CERP training “was more a validation of what I already knew. But learning the history of the industry [in the Foundations course] was interesting.”

The biggest challenge of going through CERP training, Dunne says, was the time commitment. “I did a little bit at home and a little bit at the office; I tried to do one hour of work a day,” he says. The Meetinghouse Companies picked up the cost of the program.

He recommends the CERP program to other event professionals. “It was a great experience,” he says. “The fact that certification is bringing the level of the profession up is a great thing.”


The chance to upgrade the skills of her personnel and subsequently the stature of the industry led Susan Miles, vice president of Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based PDQ Party Center, to commit to the CERP program. She and a manager received their CERP designation in February; one of PDQ's outside sales people is now starting the program.

“We are always looking for quality personnel,” Miles says. “We want a more upscale client, but this industry is continually faced with the image of the rental truck coming by to dump off the rickety chairs. We need to upgrade the image of the industry so we can have credibility with our clients.”

Miles chose the Warehouse Management and Tabletop Design specialties for her course of study. In light of her background in party rental, she expected the design segment would be “a snap — but no, no, no!” she says with a laugh. “You need to have a lot of understanding of equipment utilization, customer needs and ancillary products.” But she says the work was still fun: “You get to see the tabletop project through from beginning to end, documenting it and explaining what you did and what you might do differently.” She also praises the depth of the design segment. “It gave us an understanding of other cultures and ethnicities, with information on chuppahs and quinceaneras. It was much more complex than we anticipated.”


John Crabbe, president of South Burlington, Vt.-based Vermont Tent Co., has already seen a direct payoff from his investment in CERP training for his staff. Vermont Tent has shepherded four employees through their CERP certification; Crabbe himself also completed the process.

“We use ARA insurance, and they did take a few points off our costs for having CERP professionals on staff,” he notes. “Everyone's insurance costs have gone up since 9/11, and this was one of the benefits that I was looking for.”

A second benefit was “a really big boost in morale,” Crabbe says. Not only are the graduates proud, but the enthusiasm is contagious. “It was great that everybody else got excited,” he explains. “It spreads around the company. The other guys now enrolled want to hurry up and finish; they want to go to the ARA show next year.”

Besides picking up the tab for CERP registration, Vermont Tent Co. pays for up to 16 hours of study time for each course, $100 for completion of each of the three study segments of the program, and $500 when the student accumulates the required 25 points. “We are very committed to it,” Crabbe says.


ARA is planning to broaden the number of disciplines available under the CERP program beyond the current options, Weiss says. Also, the association has just debuted a new section on its Web site ( with details on CERP requirements, a registration form, a course catalog and contact information for six CERP graduates. Weiss promises that “like any good, quality program, the CERP program will always be maintained and updated. We're always looking at it.”


American Rental Association, 800/334-2177, 309/764-2475; PDQ Party Center, 562/946-2367; The Meetinghouse Companies, 630/941-0600; Vermont Tent Co., 802/863-6107

See this story on the Web at



ARA's Certified Event Rental Professional designation is a program that students can complete at their own pace; it usually takes about one year. It gives an overview of the party rental industry plus training in specific disciplines.


All students must complete the Foundations of the Party and Event Rental Industry course, which covers the history of the rental industry, rental processes and procedures, products and services, and customer and business relations. After passing the Foundations exam, students pick any two specialty areas — including Tenting, Linen Processing, Tabletop Design and Warehouse Management — for further study. Finally, the CERP candidate must accumulate 25 points from a wide range of options, including attendance at industry functions, credit for service in ARA, formal education and serving as a speaker.


CERP courses are available as self-study workbooks; three of the four disciplines have additional multimedia aids.


The full CERP program — including the sign-up fee, Foundations course, two disciplines, and final assessment and certification — is $475 for ARA members and $775 for nonmembers.


Visit and click on Education & Training or call 800/334-2177, 309/764-2475.

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