Grading Technical and Vocational Schools

January 12, 2001
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You’ve graduated from high school and have decided to pursue a career in the hvacr industry. Now what do you do? If you have asked that question, don’t feel alone. Many people have decided to enter a trade-related field but didn’t know where to go next.

Whenever you are choosing a school, whether it be for a traditional college degree or for a technical education, there are many issues you need to look into. Here are some places where you can find technical training. Explore these options and decide which one will benefit you for your future career path.

WHERE TO GO:

  • Vo-Tech Schools: These schools are almost always at the high school level and incorporate regular secondary education with vocational education.
  • Apprenticeship Programs: These programs can be taken at the union or non-union level. It is mandatory to work for an employer while taking classes through either type of program. This helps, because you make money while you learn. The union apprenticeships will help you find an employer to work for and will usually include benefits. Also, when you join a union apprenticeship, you become a union member. Non-union apprenticeships are commonly held through a local hvacr chapter such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). In a non-union apprenticeship, you must find an employer to hire you and send you to the training.
  • Adult Education: These courses are for individuals who would like to learn a specific area of a trade, usually the basics, but do not want to go through the two-year program. Adult education courses take a shorter amount of time to complete, but can be much more rigorous. Students looking to take these courses are usually looking to learn the trade, earn a certificate of completion, and enter the field.
  • Public Post-secondary Schools: These schools are your local community colleges. A two-year hvacr program though a public community college may require electives such as math, English, or business classes. Before enrolling, find out if the school offers a certificate, diploma, or degree upon completion of the course. A two-year program does not automatically mean you will receive a degree.
  • Private Post-secondary Schools: At these schools you will most likely not be required to take any other elective courses. When you pay to take courses at a private post-secondary college, you are only required to learn the aspects of the trade you are pursuing. Classes are technology-based with more hands-on study. As with a community college, find out if you will receive a certificate, diploma, or degree upon completion of the course.
  • Universities: There are very few four-year hvac programs, but they do exist. In some cases, students will earn an associate’s degree from a community or technical college and later transfer their credits to a university. This can lead to bachelor’s degree in engineering, business, or hvacr technology. Remember, if this is something you want to do, make sure that the school you attend for your bachelor’s degree will allow your credits to carry over to its four-year program.
  • You can even find schools that specialize in hvac courses or other trade related fields by searching the Internet. Here are some sites with searchable databases: www.coolcareers.org, www.overview.com, and www.plumbing careers.com.

    What To Look For When Choosing a Training Program; Ask The Following Questions Before You Enroll.

    1. How much hands-on training is available? Some programs can have a great deal of hands-on training, which allows students to see first hand how equipment works and gives students the chance to apply classroom theory to actual equipment. A certain amount of hands-on learning is necessary. Try to avoid a program that never leaves the classroom or does not make use of lab time. Also, find out how many students there are to each piece of lab equipment.

    2. What is the job placement rate? Ask what the chances are of finding a job after you finish the program. Find out how the program helps students find employment. You may also want to find out if there is an opportunity to intern or work for a contractor while you learn.

    3. What is the student success rate? Not only should you find out how many students have jobs after they graduate, but how many students finish the courses. If there is a low rate of student retention, it may be that students did not feel they were learning or were unsatisfied with the program. Try to interview a recent graduate.

    4. What is the background of the teachers? Many hvacr instructors started in the industry as a service technician or a contractor. Instructors who have spent a great deal of time in the field before becoming an instructor can tell you exactly what to expect from a technical point of view and even from a practical level.

    5. Who has accredited the school? When a school says that it is accredited it means that an outside organization or association has evaluated the educational program and found it to meet certain requirements. It is not only important to find out if your school is accredited, but who gave the accreditation. Some organizations accredit by industry guidelines, while other organizations accredit by their own standards. Find out if the accrediting organization is legitimate. 6. What is the school’s relationship with the industry? You will want to find out how close the school comes to following industry standards and reaching out to the local industry. It may say a lot about a school if they reach out to area contractors to not only better the program, but also better the working situations for area businesses. Finally, find out if the school uses an industry supported test as a course completer, such as the Industry Competency Exam (ICE). This is important because it will allow you to see if what you have learned is relevant to what the industry believes technicians should know.

    For Tech Page information or to request copies, contact J.J. Siegel, training and education editor; 248-244-1731; 248-362-0317 (fax); siegelj@bnp.com (e-mail).

    Publication date: 01/15/2001

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