Training & Education / Refrigeration

The Value of Ongoing Education

May 7, 2012
Trans

It is great to enter the industry as a refrigeration service technician (or any HVACR tech for that matter) with a good amount of education attained through high school, community college, vocational school, or even a four-year program. But is that enough?

No way, say those who have committed themselves to providing ongoing education targeted for technicians — no matter how long they have been working in the field.

For this story on the value of continuing education, The NEWS turned to two men who have something in common. Both are recent winners of the two highest honors conferred by the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES).

Wilford D. “Mac” McCarthy won the 2011 Distinguished Service Member of the Year Award. According to RSES, the award recognizes a member for “outstanding contributions to RSES and the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry in areas of education, public relations, safety, and society growth.”

Jim Malone won the 2011 Walter B. Stopera Speaker of the Year Award “given to an individual who has been recognized by RSES membership as having provided outstanding educational presentations.” This award is sponsored by the RSES Garden State Chapter, Newark, N.J., and named for a longtime member.

McCarthy and Malone also have something else in common, which in the case of the 2011 awards is a pure coincidence for a trade association with members throughout the United States, Canada, and several other countries. Both McCarthy and Malone are members of the RSES Cowtown Chapter in San Antonio, Texas.

Still on the Road

According to Kim Heselbarth, marketing manager of RSES, McCarthy has “personally taught and/or proctored thousands of technicians over the years.” That includes 36 years as a member of RSES, where he has held numerous elected offices for an association that stresses education programs. In fact, at the time of the interview with The NEWS, McCarthy was packing to drive from San Antonio to Austin for the annual Southwest Regional Association (SWRA) conference of RSES.

McCarthy brings real-world knowledge to his teaching. He began with the military as a refrigeration technician, continued to HVACR work in a school district, and then started his own contracting business, which he still runs today.

For McCarthy, ongoing training in a more formal setting such as at an education conference is a way to avoid “secondhand learning,” a reference to word-of-mouth and possibly incorrect information passed along in the field.

“It is important to get direct information,” he said, referencing manufacturer representatives and technical trainers who often conduct the more formal training at conferences. “In the end, getting direct information on equipment saves a lot of time when back in the field.”

He also recognized those from within trade associations who do teaching based on their field experiences as well as keeping up on the latest technologies.

“A good teacher can control misinformation.” And in a classroom-type setting, McCarthy added, “Questions can be bounced back and forth between students and the instructor.”

Another reason for ongoing education, he said, is to stay up to speed on new technologies. Such training, he said, can typically only be gained through those more formal settings at wholesale supply houses and conferences.

He acknowledged there is a cost issue, especially for young technicians. In such cases, he said, techs should ask their employers for funding help.

Helping Source

Malone’s involvement in the industry began in the 1960s as an appliance service man for Montgomery Ward, followed by running service centers and providing tech support. Since 1983, he has been a manufacturer’s representative for a range of products.

Besides the training he provides on the new products from his manufacturers at contractors’ businesses and supply houses, he also said he goes to vocational schools and junior colleges to provide training and encourage HVACR students to continue their studies after completing coursework.

“In most schools, there is not a lot of hands-on training,” he said, which is one reason he encourages techs to continue with training such as that provided by a specific manufacturer at new product focused events.

Malone also believes that “once you stop learning, you are dead” in this industry. He candidly admitted that school settings can be a challenge, but he added, “When they give a darn, I can help them.”

Another advantage to attend training classes, seminars and workshops, according to Malone, is the ability to network.

Safety is also high on the list of reasons to participate in ongoing training. In recent years, Malone has done a number of seminars on carbon monoxide.

Like McCarthy, he realizes the cost of ongoing training such as at a conference can be daunting even when completion of a course can mean continuing education credits as through North American Technician Excellence (NATE).

He noted one approach tried at the most recent SWRA conference was to offer attendees who paid $100 for a day-long compressor training program a complimentary registration to take seminars and classes offered the following day at the same location.

Malone himself is an example of the value of ongoing education. He has been a member of RSES for 22 years and has taken as well as taught extensively in that context. During 2011 he decided to take the RSES Certificate Member exam, considered by many to be the equivalent to a master’s degree in HVACR. Passage rates are typically fairly low, around 25 percent. Malone not only passed, but had the highest score on a CM exam for the entire year.

For more information on RSES, go to www.rses.org.

Publication date: 05/07/2012

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