Education in the Worldwide Elevator Industry

An overview of existing education and a summary of the needs for educating personnel

The advent of safe elevators has been a vital enabling factor in the development of cities and contributed to the social and economic structures that have become part of contemporary life. Urbanization of the world’s population continues to increase at a rapid rate with a consequent acceleration of the installed base of building-transportation equipment. Buildings can remain in use for many years, and the transportation equipment within them is required to provide safe, reliable service for the buildings’ entire lifespans. Ensuring safe, reliable operation over a long period is a complex task, further complicated by the vast number of new installations being added around the world. 

There are many aspects of the successful application of elevator equipment in a given building. Some facets of this process include specification, design, manufacture, construction, certification and permitting, inspection, maintenance, and use of the equipment by the public. To ensure safety and reliability, each of these functions must be carried out correctly and conscientiously. Education and training of the personnel involved in these activities is absolutely essential for the process to be workable as a whole.

This article is aimed at providing a brief summary of the need for educating personnel involved with building-transportation equipment, as well as a perspective on how this is being addressed in various parts of the world. While it is not feasible to cover all aspects of this extensive subject in a single article, it is intended that this paper conveys a sense of how educational needs are being embraced. In this context, examples of action in various parts of the world are described. Some of the examples represent best practices being emulated in other arenas. Moreover, consistent with the objective that this important subject be viewed from a global perspective, examples from different parts of the world are related.

Education of Elevator Technical Personnel

North American Training

“Elevator technical personnel” covers a wide range of specialists in the industry, including engineering and design experts, manufacturing professionals, construction and installation specialists, and maintenance and service experts. With regard to engineering and design personnel, portions of education and training have been undertaken by the elevator manufacturing companies. This has typically followed a format of formal lectures and instruction using classroom-style venues, as well as field exposure and on-the-job training. 

In North America, structured apprenticeship programs were implemented as a path toward qualification of field-based personnel. In the U.S. in 1967, the National Elevator Industry, Inc. and International Union of Elevator Constructors cooperated to establish the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP). This was to ensure that the elevator construction trade was supported by well-trained technicians. Extensive educational programs were set up to train apprentices, as well as provide a continuous education opportunity for qualified technicians so that the needs of the industry as a whole would be met. NEIEP provides a standardized curriculum for a nationally validated mechanic’s examination. The program has served the industry well over the years. Also in the U.S., the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund provides a thorough continuing-educational program entitled “Professional Approved Continuing Education,” which supports the renewal of elevator mechanic’s licenses.

In North America, the National Association of Elevator Contractors offers comprehensive training programs, including continuing-education programs for elevator technicians, including the Certified Elevator Technician (CET®) and Certified Accessibility and Private-Residence Lift Technician (CAT®) programs. Other educational opportunities, particularly in the elevator and escalator codes and standards area, are offered by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Such courses are run periodically and address the various codes in the A17 and A17/B44 series.

Facets of Training in Europe and Japan

In many ways, the training of elevator technicians around the world is similar to that described in the foregoing. For example, in Europe, the apprenticeship process for developing elevator technicians is well established, and many educational entities provide courses to prepare elevator personnel for local examinations. Moreover, elevator manufacturing companies based in Europe also provide educational programs for engineering, design and other employees. 

In Japan, many manufacturing companies have training centers where they train their employees in the maintenance or installation of elevators. Courses here are usually held periodically to improve the skill levels of elevator personnel on an ongoing basis. Some of the training centers of major elevator companies have multiple facilities so training on equipment of differing vintages can be accommodated. 

The form of training in Europe and Japan is very valuable in ensuring that the elevator workforce is competent and up to date with the states of the art in the industry.

A Unique Approach in South Korea

In 2008, your author had the privilege of helping to plant a tree in Geochang County in South Korea. The tree-planting ceremony was to celebrate the decision to establish the Korea Lift College (KLC), which was chartered to provide an educational curriculum specifically for the elevator industry (ELEVATOR WORLD, November 2009). The college opened in 2009 and has been providing a comprehensive educational program that has resulted in 550 students having graduated thus far. 

It should be noted that South Korea has a proud history of elevator installations spanning more than a century. Moreover, the installed base of elevators exceeds half a million with more than 30,000 new units added each year. The need for specialized knowledge in this vital area was recognized, and the KLC is making a positive contribution toward the education of the workforce.

The curriculum addresses mechanical and electrical design principles, including electronics. It also covers all aspects of elevator technology, including structural engineering, motion control, safety, elevatoring of buildings and layouts. Manufacture, installation, testing and maintenance of equipment are also addressed in the program. 

Graduates of the program have found interesting careers in engineering, design, installation, maintenance and inspection of elevator systems. This has also provided the country’s industry with a source of qualified, competent professionals who will continue to advance the causes of quality, reliability and safety. The KLC provides a constructive model worth evaluating as other parts of the world endeavor to embrace the need for qualified elevator personnel.

Advanced Education in Elevator Engineering

There is emerging recognition that the elevator industry is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and there is a need for education at the master’s level and above. One of the leading educational institutions to address the need for education at the master’s level is Northampton University’s School of Science and Technology in Northampton, U.K. The course is intended for engineers, consultants and senior managers, and provides study in elevator design, maintenance, contract requirements, electrical and mechanical equipment, codes and standards, and vertical-transportation systems. A dissertation is required as part of the curriculum. Full-time and part-time study options are available to accommodate students who have full-time work commitments. Northampton University also offers study toward a PhD in Lift Engineering. This is indicative of a forward-looking approach to a field of engineering that is becoming increasingly complex. It is anticipated that other institutions of higher learning will follow Northampton’s lead in providing education at advanced levels.

Education of Enforcing Authorities and Inspection Personnel

Safety of the riding public and elevator personnel is the paramount concern of the building-transportation equipment industry, as well as the enforcing authorities and inspectors responsible for public safety. Codes and standards provide the cornerstone for elevator and escalator safety, and it is imperative that enforcing authorities and inspectors are fully conversant with the codes and standards applicable in their jurisdictions. Education and training of these personnel is, thus, vital. Due to cultural and historical factors, there are differences and similarities in the training of enforcing authorities and inspection personnel around the world. Some of these are elaborated on below.

Training Inspection Personnel in North America

The ASME A17.1/CSA B44 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators requires that elevator equipment be inspected by an inspector employed or authorized by the AHJ. Moreover, this code requires that inspectors and inspection supervisors meet the qualification requirements of the ASME QEI-1 Standard for the Qualification of Inspectors. This standard requires that organizations that certify inspectors and inspection supervisors be accredited by an organization that accredits personnel certification bodies to ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 or equivalent. Several accredited organizations emerged over the years, the most widely known being NAESA International. This organization is accredited by ANSI and conducts training classes, as well as QEI examinations and certification for inspectors and inspection supervisors. 

QEI-1 is a thorough standard that details the conditions and requirements for effective elevator-inspection personnel. Such personnel are required to have verifiable evidence of training and experience, as well as extensive working knowledge of elevator technology and relevant codes and standards. The training of inspectors is very thorough, and the examination is demanding. It is also necessary for inspection personnel to renew their certifications periodically to ensure their familiarity with the latest code requirements.

Training Inspection Personnel in China

The Chinese elevator industry has grown at an unprecedented rate in the last decade, with the result that around four million units are operational and more than a half million elevators are being added each year. With such volume, it is not surprising that there is a massive demand for qualified elevator inspectors. 

Several years ago, the China Special Equipment Inspection and Research Institute (CSEI) began studying the educational programs and inspection protocols of various inspection bodies around the world. Several delegations were sent to the U.S. to study the implementation of the QEI program and to understand how inspections were actually being conducted in large jurisdictions. CSEI also arranged for its employees to intern abroad in Germany and other European countries to gain an understanding as to how inspections are carried out and how inspection personnel are trained. 

Ultimately, CSEI developed a qualification program for inspection personnel based conceptually on QEI but oriented toward the processes practiced in Europe. In much of Europe, acceptance and periodic inspections are carried out by accredited inspection organizations, many of which are Notified Bodies. This model was found to fit well with the CSEI structure. CSEI is currently charged with the training of elevator inspectors in China.

Training Inspection Personnel in Japan

In Japan, elevator inspectors have to be licensed according to the Building Standard Law of Japan (BSLJ). Training for licensing purposes is conducted by the Japan Building Equipment Elevator Center Foundation, which also conducts the examination of candidates. On completion of the training and passing the examination, the candidates are officially certified to inspect elevators and report to the government under the BSLJ. 

Education of the Public

It has been recognized for some time that public awareness is a key ingredient of building-transportation equipment safety in a holistic sense. The elevator industry has been working over the years to educate the public in the safe use of elevator and escalator equipment. 

The Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation in the U.S. provides a good example of how public education may be approached. The main focus of the organization has been the education of children in classrooms with the cooperation of the schools. Presentations using a video that appeals to children and coloring books have been given by Foundation staff and volunteers, who, over time, have reached hundreds of thousands of children. The retention rate of children educated by the program has been found to be very high, even long after the lesson was given. This is believed to be an effective model for educating the public and has been exported to Canada and is affiliated with safety-minded organizations in the U.K. and Argentina. 

In South Korea, an educational program entitled “My Friend, the Elevator” was developed by the Korean Elevator Safety Institute in cooperation with school authorities. The program uses a kit that contains a CD, a guidebook, puzzles and other materials to be used by teachers to educate children as part of the school curriculum. 

In China, Otis has developed a series of safety-education campaigns aimed at children, throughout the country. This includes a safety book featuring cartoons and encouraging hundreds of employees to teach escalator safety at local schools. 


The safety record of the building-transportation equipment industry is impressive, especially considering the number of passengers transported each day. In fact, the low number of accidents has impacted public opinion to the point where any accident receives widespread attention. The outstanding performance is due largely to the enforcement of comprehensive safety codes and standards that have been developed over the years, the excellent quality and training of the workforce and the culture of safety embraced by the industry as a whole. Education is at the heart of all of these factors. Much progress has been made over the years on the educational front, but much work lies ahead. Some of the examples cited in the foregoing may serve as models for the future development of educational initiatives.

Louis Bialy, PE, has 55 years of engineering experience, including 41 years in the elevator industry. He is a contributing member and past chair of the US TAG to ISO/TC178, as well as a member of WG4 and WG6. He is past chair of the ASME Board on Safety Codes and Standards, and an Honorary Member of the A17 Standards Committee. He has a B.Sc. (Eng.) (Witwatersrand, South Africa) and an M.Eng. (McMaster, Canada). He was 1991 ASME Distinguished Engineer of the year, the 2008 ASME Safety Codes and Standards Medalist and recipient of the 2012 ASME Distinguished Services Award. He has been elected as an Otis Fellow (2008) as well as an ASME Fellow (2018). He is the recipient of five United Technologies special awards and has been awarded many U.S. and international patents. He has authored many articles for engineering and elevator journals. After a 33-year career with Otis Elevator Co., he became president of Louis Bialy and Associates LLC.

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