The world needs HVACR professionals who can deliver excellent results and grow in their careers. New HVACR programs are making it easier for the HVACR industry to find and retain our next generation of professionals: by meeting the students where they are, and making the education and training process fit with each student’s lifestyle. As a result, we end up with HVACR workers who make a lucrative income, lead steady careers, and take pride in what they do.
There are doctors who work with systems made of flesh and bone, with blood and veins and nerves. And there are doctors who work with systems of metal and steel, with ducts and refrigerants and valves. Both are critical to the world in which we live. Both are viable careers. One is widely respected; the other, underappreciated yet just as in demand.
“I make high school guidance counselors cringe,” said Steve Gutsch, HVACR instructor at Chippewa Valley Technical College. “I look at the students and I say, No. 1, you don’t have to go to a four-year college, and No. 2, you don’t have to go to college right out of high school.”
With the HVAC industry facing a serious shortage of talent that’s only expected to grow in the next couple years, some colleges and contractors have come up with innovative ways to help college and trade school be as accessible as possible to all who may wish to enter the field.
“If we can fill the funnel in high school, then it’s going to help them keep going to deliver more to the field,” said Dave Chatmon, district manager at Lennox.
TEACHING ON DEMAND
Chris Essar is an HVAC instructor at Blackhawk Technical College in Rock County, Wisconsin, where the college has just debuted a new program called “teaching on demand,” now in its second semester.
“Students actually do their homework online, and then they come in when they have the availability to do their lab work,” he explained.
Teaching on demand came about when the college president decided to focus on helping people work around their schedules to get them into classes. The first two HVAC classes — Air-conditioning Fundamentals and Electric Fundamentals — are co-work classes: Students have to sit in class a certain amount of time. From there on, it’s on demand. Students do their homework and watch prerecorded lectures online. Then, they can come in and do the labs.
“We have checkoffs in the labs, to make sure they got the skill they needed … they fill out the answers,” Essar said. “We read them. If you got it, move on; if you don’t, why don’t you go back and try to figure this out again.”