Student Chapters Create Industry Bridge

May 1, 2001
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There are several hvacr-related associations, all with local and state chapters. The purpose, of course, is to keep members of the industry up to date on new developments and to pull people of the same trade together in an effort to better themselves and their field. A few of these national associations have established not only state and local chapters, but student chapters that work in conjunction with colleges and universities.

These chapters are extensions of the national associations and state chapters, offering students in the mechanical fields the opportunity to see firsthand how the industry works. It is also an opportunity to help recruit young people for a trade-related field.

These student chapters work like any other extracurricular student activity. Students take part in field trips and get to hear a number of guest speakers throughout the school year.

The advantages are numerous for a student involved in one of these groups, but contractors are also benefiting. By nurturing these student chapters and promoting them, contractors and others in the industry are not only seeing the possibility of more workers, but better qualified employees.

If you want to see where the qualified techs of the future are, look no further than these student chapters.



Marketability and Other Benefits

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE) is one national association that has several student chapters.

Three colleges in Indiana have student ASHRAE chapters that are connected to the central Indiana state chapter. One of those schools is Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.

William Hutzel is an advisor at Purdue for the university’s ASHRAE chapter.

According to Hutzel, Purdue offers a great deal in the way of technology and technical majors. In fact, he says that Purdue has 37,000 students, and 10,000 of them are majoring in a field with a technical slant. But students who decide to go into these majors typically choose a field such as automotive, not hvacr.

“An ongoing challenge we face is that the typical student does not know about the hvac industry,” Hutzel said.

He explains that with the ASHRAE student chapter, there is an opportunity for students to see an aspect of the mechanical trades that they may have never thought of before.

Each school year when the students are coming back to campus, Hutzel and others in the hvac program do extensive advertising of the first chapter meeting of the semester. Any students interested are welcome to come.

“The goal is to show students what career opportunities there are,” Hutzel said.

The chapter brings in guest speakers at regular meetings and students are taken on field trips to see the industry in action. Hutzel said that last fall, students had the chance to take a trip to see a nuclear reactor on campus.

All of this exposure and involvement to the industry leads to even better things, according to Hutzel. He explains that by taking part in a student hvacr chapter, students will be able to impress future employers.

“Students are looking to build their résumé,” Hutzel said.

Stephanie Langston was a student at Purdue and was very active in the university’s ASHRAE chapter. In fact, Langston was the student chapter vice president only three years ago and she is now the student activities chair at the central Indiana ASHRAE chapter. She explains that she is a “go-between” for the state chapter and the three college chapters.

She also says that the Indiana state chapter works a great deal with the student chapters. Students are invited to attend state chapter meetings and the state chapters also hold special student nights. This gives students the opportunity to network with individuals who are already active in the industry. The state chapters, with help from the national association, also raise money to set up scholarships for the students.

Langston stated that the student chapters are very beneficial because through networking, the students can get involved in internships and even make contacts for future jobs. Langston believes that her involvement in the ASHRAE chapter helped her when she was looking for a job. She explains that her work in the ASHRAE chapter was brought up at every interview she went on. Currently, Langston is working for BSA Design in Indiana.

Langston said that by being active in the ASHRAE student chapter, young people are exposed to the industry.

“They get to see outside of the school,” Langston says about the students. “They get to see what they are really getting themselves into.”



Presenting Choices

The University of Nebraska also has a student chapter that is sponsored by ASHRAE. In fact, the university student chapter is also sponsored by the Mechanical Contractors Association of Omaha (MCAO) and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

The university at one time had separate student chapters for all three associations, but merged them into one student chapter in 1998.

Tim Wentz, the student chapter advisor, said that the marriage of the three student chapters raised the student involvement by almost 200%.

Wentz says that this eliminates the competition between chapters and gives the students more of an opportunity to be exposed to different facets of the mechanical industry.

“The chapters have a priority of first education and second recruiting young men and women,” said Wentz. “If the [local] chapter has that priority it makes sense to have a student chapter.”

Wentz’s students also have the benefit of creating a presence for themselves by networking and attending the local chapters of the three sponsoring associations. They also have the opportunity to take off-campus field trips.

“The best education is outside the classroom,” said Wentz.

One such trip was a visit to Omaha to see an indoor rainforest, the third largest of its kind in the country. The students took a tour of the three-story structure and were able to see how it was designed and the tremendous amount of equipment and humidification systems needed to preserve it.

Sometimes, students even have the opportunity to participate in the yearly national conventions for the associations. A few of Wentz’s students were invited to Maui, HI, for the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) meeting to participate in workshops and educational seminars.

Donnie Arant, the chapter’s vice president, said that he was able to attend the ASHRAE show in Atlanta, GA. Arant is pursing his bachelor’s degree and has been focusing on the construction industry. With his involvement in the student chapter, he says, “I’ve realized how important mechanical contracting is to the construction industry. It has broadened my scope of learning.”

Dan Sindelar, the student chapter president, has been responsible for coordinating the meetings and pulling together field trips. And like Arant, he too feels he has been exposed to more choices in his future career.

“I’ve seen a whole different side of the construction industry,” said Sindelar. “I see there are different avenues you can go down.”

Publication date: 05/07/2001

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