Dealership Takes Tech Shortage Initiative

October 4, 2000
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It’s a unique move, at least on the dealership level. Specialty HVAC Institute in Benicia, CA, has opened a new hvac basic training program that has been approved by California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education.

This recent addition couldn’t have made area contractors and technicians happier.

Randy Connor, training manager and instructor at the institute, says that the program was developed in response to contractors’ need for qualified employees. Specialty HVAC has had residential and light commercial training for close to 10 years, but the new courses also include a basic entry-level training program that some postsecondary schools do not have.

Although the course focuses on installing and servicing Trane equipment, students also learn how to work with other manufacturers’ brands. Additionally, the program is making use of state-of-the-art equipment.

Since the course began this past July, contractors and technicians are praising its depth and the opportunities it opens up. By January 2001, the students will be certified for refrigeration service, and they will be better prepared to take the NATE test.

“No matter how you look at this school, it is an absolute benefit to us,” said Mark Morelli, owner of Air Connection, Santa Rosa, CA.

Morelli says that in his area of California, hvac training is difficult to find. Recently, Morelli hired Kelly Roach. Roach did not have a great deal of hvac background, but was hired because of his experience with sheet metal and auto mechanics.

After hiring Roach, Morelli was made aware of the Specialty HVAC Institute and offered to pay for half of the tuition cost. Roach is now pulling double duty, working full time at Air Connection and then attending the 5:30 to 10 p.m. class five nights a week.

Besides the strenuous schedule, Morelli says that Roach is “excited. He enjoys learning. It’s hard for him because he does it five nights a week, but he seems to be excelling.”

Richard Ables, owner of Solano Heating, Suisun, CA, is in the same predicament.

Ables said that he went to the local high school counselor and requested an individual who was drug free, had a good driving record, a good attitude, and some mechanical ability. The school referred Ables to Steve Deal, a young man with only a sheet metal background, but with great potential.

Ables hired Deal as a starter and later sent him to Specialty HVAC, paying all of the tuition necessary for him to finish the course.

According to Connor, students like Deal and Roach make up 75% of the institute’s class. “If contractors would hire people and concern themselves with basic character, we can then take them and train them.”

Mike McCarn is the owner of Express Plumbing & Heating, Santa Rosa, and he falls into the other 25% of the institute’s students: those already in the field who want to refresh their knowledge.

McCarn’s business is beginning to progress further into providing heating and air conditioning services, and he wanted to take the training as a refresher course. The owner is also bringing along another employee, his 18-year-old son, Shane. Both father and son are driving almost an hour, five days a week, to attend the classes.

“This class is wonderful,” McCarn said. “It really goes into great detail and it shows you how to install things correctly the first time.”

Eric Svensson, a part-time instructor at the institute, says that McCarn is not alone. “We have a wide range of students. A number are right out of high school and we have people with their own company who want to increase their skill level.”

Svensson adds that he hopes what Specialty HVAC is doing will catch on and other distributors and dealers will do the same thing.

“Teaching should go on through the dealerships because there is a great, valuable field out there,” Svensson said.

Publication date: 10/09/2000

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