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He says that his program has always been successful, especially when working with contractors and placing graduating students into jobs. But since Great Oaks earned accreditation through the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), Whittamore says he has seen even more success.
The instructor says that because of PAHRA, the industry is taking notice of what the institute has to offer.
TRAINING MUST EVOLVEGreat Oaks began the process of obtaining PAHRA accreditation 15 months ago. Whittamore compares the process to being put under a microscope.
PAHRA accreditation requires that HVACR programs document several aspects that make up the curriculum and training. This can include everything from lab space and student ratios, to the kind of teaching aids that are used.
Whittamore says that compiling information was one of the more challenging parts of the process. He says that he did not have too many other difficulties because he had faith in what his program was doing.
“My program has evolved over the years,” Whittamore said. “As industry evolves, your training has to evolve.”
By keeping current with new trends, Whittamore has been able to guarantee that his program is teaching what PAHRA expects. In fact, Whittamore says that when Great Oaks started the PAHRA process, the HVACR program was already doing 95% of what PAHRA requires.
REAPING THE REWARDSThe HVACR program at Great Oaks has consistently produced qualified technicians and has helped fill a void in the local industry. Whittamore explains that in his last graduating class of 18 students, 14 had jobs before completing the course.
He says his program has a good rapport with area contractors. Each year, the same contractors contact Whittamore to see if he has any new students they can hire.
With things running smoothly at Great Oaks, it seems as if things couldn’t get any better. But according to Whittamore, PAHRA has taken the college’s HVACR program to even higher heights.
First, PAHRA has increased the visibility of Whittamore’s program. He says that because it is necessary for training programs to evolve, it is also necessary that programs receive new equipment to keep current. Whittamore says that finding suppliers who are willing to donate to the program can be difficult, but PAHRA has changed this. “Manufacturers are coming to us.”
He says that the program used to receive lab equipment once or twice a year. Now, manufacturers and suppliers are providing equipment four to five times a year. Some of the donations are unsolicited.
“We are getting the most state-of-the-art equipment,” says Whittamore. “This has enabled the program to get things that were always put on the back burner.”
The instructor also says that because of PAHRA, the college’s administration is more willing to invest in the program because it has been verified by the industry.
Whittamore says PAHRA is proof that students will receive the education they need to be successful in the industry. He says that PAHRA guarantees contractors that the students they hire from the Great Oaks program will be prepared when they enter the job market.
Since obtaining the accreditation, Whittamore says his e-mail has been overloaded with messages from other instructors and contractors. Many of the instructors are looking for advice from Whittamore on how to get started with PAHRA. He says that while working towards the accreditation, he has had the opportunity to meet several other instructors.
For example, Whittamore attended instructor workshops offered by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). The workshops not only gave Whittamore the information he needed to get started on accreditation, but he also was able to work with educators from all over the country who are dealing with similar issues.
NOT FOR EVERYONEWhittamore shares some advice with instructors who are looking to also earn PAHRA accreditation: “It isn’t for everyone.”
He explains that programs with a large circle of support have better chances of earning the accreditation. He stresses that programs need to have support because of PAHRA’s stringent requirements. For example, it requires programs to have lab spaces that are a certain size. It requires that students have access to certain equipment or tools. Without support from administration and industry, some of these requirements may not be possible.
Whittamore also says that PAHRA is possible for “any program that is doing the right thing and is staying current with the industry.”
Publication date: 08/26/2002