Ohio Vocational School Continues to Improve Its HVACR Program

June 11, 2007
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Thanks to a $200,000 grant from Emerson Climate Technologies, Upper Valley Joint Vocational School was able to purchase new and emerging technology to keep up-to-date with the industry.

Thirteen years ago, the HVACR program at the Upper Valley Joint Vocational School (UVJVS) in Piqua, Ohio, had only 12 students - and that’s junior and senior classes combined. It was in grave danger of being closed.

Instructors Scott Naill and Tony Trapp have been instrumental in turning the program around. Today the school has 37 students, is attracting national attention, and recently moved into a new, state-of-the-art facility with all updated equipment donated by manufacturers, contractors, and wholesalers.

The program recently received a $200,000 grant from Emerson Climate Technologies’ trust fund, which was used to construct and equip an Emerson Climate Technologies Resource Center within UVJVS’ new HVACR laboratory and training center. This grant will also be used to purchase new and emerging technology to keep up-to-date with the industry.

Naill and Trapp are modest in regard to the program’s upsurge. In fact, they refuse to take credit for the school’s recent success.

“The success has come from the students, the employers, and the administration,” said Naill. “We, the instructors, just guide things.”

TAKING OWNERSHIP

In the eyes of UVJVS’ two instructors, the turnaround came about because students and employers took, as they put it, “ownership in the program.” In their estimation, ownership motivates all the stakeholders to get involved. “As we look at ways to get high school students involved in the HVACR industry, we need to understand the needs that motivates their interests,” explained Trapp.

Learning from 13 years of teaching, Naill and Trapp said students want to be challenged and engaged in their learning. In their estimation, there are several key factors that need to be in place to keep student interest and have program improvements.

First, each agree instructors need to be dynamic, energetic, and excited about the subject matter. At UVJVS, students are able to state their case in surveys taken twice a school year.

“What makes this program or any other program interesting to me is the teacher, and [he/she] has to have a sense of humor,” wrote junior student Michael Taylor.

Naill and Trapp said students need to know that there are opportunities awaiting them after graduation. At the same time, they said employers, industry, and advisory committee members need to be engaged at every level - from the time potential high school students first visit the program to the time they graduate.

“The key contact after a potential student has visited your program should be the employer,” said Naill. “The employer can do a number of things to contact that student to encourage them to choose the HVACR industry.”

In the eyes of Trapp, an employer can send recruitment letters out on company letterhead, explaining the need for qualified technicians and job opportunities if they stick with the program. An employer could even make a simple phone call to the student or parents, they both said.

“Finally, we need to be proactive, rather than reactive, as instructors when it comes to recruitment and keeping the students interested in the field,” said Trapp.

To keep students interested, Naill and Trapp said they try to make the materials they teach relevant to real world situations. Again, students appreciate the effort.

“Everyday Mr. Naill and Mr. Trapp explain the importance of personal skills and how this is relevant for us to get and keep a job,” said junior student Andy Davis.

GET THEM INVOLVED

Naill and Trapp said they developed ways for employers, industry, and advisory committee members to get involved. “We call it ‘Adopt-A-Student,’ ” said Naill.

In short, the advisory committee members can engage students and keep their interest by being a partner, or supporting a student’s decision to sign up for the HVACR program. The advisory committee members can make a phone call, stop by the school and just say “hi,” be a guest speaker, demonstrate a job skill, offer a field trip to his/her own company, or allow him/her to job shadow.

UVJVS was designated by the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education as one of the promising programs for 2001 and again in 2003. In bestowing this recognition, the center noted the UVJVS program’s role in preparing students for high-demand technical positions within the field.

“In response to the need to set higher academic and technical standards, the program has been changed from an appliance repair class to a modern, state-of-the-art residential and commercial HVACR training facility, setting higher academic and technical standards,” wrote the National Dissemination Center.

The recognition helped the program improve some more. Naill and Trapp indicated they were then able to put together a grant emphasizing academics and career tech.

They formed a steering team consisting of academic and vocational teachers to get ideas for preparing students for the Ohio graduation test and investigated software used to enhance skills. An HVACR recruitment video about the program was professionally produced and is used to help educate parents, students, and high school counselors about the career paths after graduation from the program.

A PATH TO SUCCESS

UVJVS draws students from 14 associate high school districts in Miami and Shelby counties, so it is important that parents and counselors understand that a career and technical education program is not an educational dead end, followed by a low-paying job. Instead, it is quite the opposite, they said.

At the beginning of each school year, employers begin scouting out the top students, said Naill. “It’s like a football draft program,” he said. “They seek out and recruit the best students.”

There are also articulation agreements in place with Sinclair Community College in Dayton and the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima, where students can begin earning college credits while in high school. Students can also pursue an apprenticeship and early placement program.

In the end, industry support has been another critical element in UVJVS’ success. Emerson Climate Technologies, Trane, Carrier, and Bryant, along with area contractors, are among the businesses that have provided money, time, and resources to the school.

Emerson Climate Technologies, which has its engineering and manufacturing headquarters plant in Sidney, Ohio, benefits from the partnership with UVJVS. Emerson now flies its wholesalers in from around the country to train and work with Naill and his high school students.

Another facet of the relationship with Emerson involves employing student apprentices from the UVJVS program. Annually two top students are recruited during their junior year to work with Emerson Climate Technologies.

For more information, visit www.uppervalleyhvacr.com.

Publication date: 06/11/2007

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