Train Now to Harvest Better Techs

February 23, 2009
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CHICAGO - Anytime is a good time to train, but taking advantage of slow work times, like the present, may be the best way to use the time effectively. That was the consensus of the educators at the Educators’ Seminar that took place at the 2009 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo). The session was sponsored by The NEWS and moderated by Senior Editor Mark Skaer. The educators’ panel included Mark Lowry, executive VP of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES); Gerry Kennedy, chief operating officer of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Education Foundation; Rex Boynton, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) president; Warren Lupson, Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) director of education and training; and Wes Davis, Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) manager of technical services.

Contractors have got to keep people in training, commented both Davis and Lupson. “Now is the time to be training them,” Lupson said. “During slow time, we need to take our better people and invest in training.”



FUTURE INVESTMENT

Training will also be critical for new people entering the field, to keep raising the bar for the industry. According to Kennedy, the industry still will need more skilled and supervisory workers, despite a small decline in projected HVACR job growth and the number of retiring workers; “91 percent of PHCC owners said finding and training qualified technicians is the most important business concern,” he said.

The brief message was we still need more trained people, and people out of work from other industries can find a stable career path in HVACR - with the right training and attitude. “These jobs require post-secondary training,” Kennedy said. “Experienced techs can earn $75,000 and up. And these jobs won’t go overseas.”

Training delivery methods are taking increasing advantage of the Internet and other computer-based means, as well as print-based and classroom training.

“Education is very important, no matter where you are,” said Davis. For those contractors who are not close to larger population areas where classroom training is available, Internet training is certainly an option. In order to find out where the gaps in training are, “Tell us what we [educators] can do to make you better contractors,” said Davis.



CERTIFICATION

When it comes to providing industry-recognized certification that the training has met its mark, “NATE continues to be the validation of that training,” said Boynton. The ongoing question is, how to create enhanced consumer awareness of NATE.

That may already be taking place. Boynton said that the American Home Comfort Survey shows that nine out of 10 consumers think it’s important that the person in their home is confirmed as being certified. The survey also shows that awareness of the NATE logo has increased.

“Clearly we are seeing enhanced value to homeowners,” Boynton said. “There is a larger pool of savvy customers. In these uncertain economic times, this will provide a lot of opportunities.”

Rich Morgan, president, Magic Touch Mechanical in Mesa, Ariz., said that his company started intensive training two years ago. The weekly training takes one hour/week, and techs take turns conducting the class. The contractor sets job standards to achieve certain certifications, using HVAC Learning Solutions online, and applying ACCA’s Quality Installation standard.

“I don’t have any trouble with recruitment,” he said. “I use it in my marketing. It helps in morale, and keeps callbacks to a minimum.” It also highlights accomplishments that merit extra compensation.

“What’s the cost of stupidity,” asked Boynton. “Where you have downtime, take advantage of training.”

Publication Date: 02/23/2009

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