Florida Programs Ignite Cooling Careers

January 18, 2010
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Aggressive city and federal initiatives are gearing up to make careers in air-conditioning a hot choice for South Florida career-seekers, according to a top official with a Miami vocational school.

“Energy efficiency is a paramount priority for businesses in today’s economy,” said Art Warren, training director of the Air Conditioning Technical Center, commonly known as AC Tech.

“On city and federal levels, initiatives are developing in Miami-Dade County that involve the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems of area businesses, schools and government buildings. These systems are major consumers of energy, and in this area, where the a/c runs almost constantly, workers with cutting-edge skills in air conditioning installation and service are going to be in high demand.”

More jobs in construction would provide a welcome employment boom for Florida. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida’s unemployment rate is 10.7 percent as of August 2009 - higher than the national average of 9.7 percent.

In October 2009, AC Tech celebrated 60 years of training South Florida workers for the mechanical contracting industry, providing graduates with expertise in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration, as well as piping. Upon graduation, AC Tech apprentices become journeymen workers with United Association Local 725.

ON THE CITY LEVEL ...

On April 20, 2009, the city of Miami announced that it was partnering with Florida Power & Light (FPL), General Electric, Cisco Systems and Silver Spring Networks to launch Energy Smart Miami to help Miami-Dade County consumers and businesses save money on their energy bills.

The system will employ Smart Grid technology, which will entail the distribution of more than 1-million advanced Smart Meters to every home and most businesses in Miami-Dade County. These meters will help consumers and business owners by providing them with more choices over how they use and conserve electrical power.

According to Manuel A. Diaz, Mayor of the city of Miami, the Energy Smart Miami program will spur a $200 million investment in Smart Grid technology and renewable energy over the next two years.

On Aug. 18, 2009, Mayor Diaz announced on his blog that “the groundbreaking energy initiative … is moving forward. FPL has submitted their proposal for $200 million in aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The money would be used to install Smart Meters, upgrades of electric network, installation of solar panels on some municipal and school buildings, and tests to accelerate the development of new products and services focusing on energy efficiency and renewable power generation.”

“The widespread installation of Smart Meters will help forward-thinking business owners realize the necessity of regular AC service,” Warren said, “since a well-maintained system, updated when necessary, can do much to reduce energy costs. Initiating contracts for regular service with HVAC contractors can help business owners to ensure that their systems are consistently working at peak performance levels. In the long run, air conditioning service doesn’t cost - it pays.”

... ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL

On the federal level, President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes funds for the upgrading of heating and cooling systems in government buildings and schools. State governments will receive $9.75 billion to modernize and renovate heating and cooling systems in schools. In Florida, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will create or save 206,000 jobs in the next two years.

“The age of the average construction worker is about 47, and more retire or leave the industry every year,” said Michael Mueller, labor chairman for AC Tech’s education committee. “As they leave the industry, more highly-trained workers will be needed to upgrade Florida’s schools and government buildings.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) already considers air conditioning careers to be a strong choice for career-seeking Americans. According to the BLS, job prospects for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers “are expected to be excellent, particularly for those who have completed training from an accredited technical school or a formal apprenticeship.”

According to Warren, AC Tech apprentices can earn while they learn. “There is no cost to attend the school,” Warren said. “Apprentices can make money by working for area contractors.” These contractors are members of the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of South Florida, which helps to fund the training program.

AC Tech provides apprentices with the skills they need to work safely in life-long careers. They can start earning from the day they start learning. They receive a starting wage of $13.95 an hour for the first six months and $14.95 an hour for the next six months. Health benefits kick in after the first year. Once they graduate to journeyman status, they can earn up to $32.10 an hour plus benefits, for a total package of $41.65.

“When you look at what’s going on at city and federal levels,” Warren said, “it becomes clear that the air conditioning industry in Miami-Dade County will soon be entering an exciting new era. Our school has enjoyed 60 great years, and the future looks like it’s going to be even better.”

For more information on AC Tech, visit www.actech.jobs.

Publication date: 01/18/2010

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