A lack of technicians is one thing - but a lack of instructors too?

April 4, 2000
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Maybe I’m approaching this worker shortage problem from the wrong angle. Here I am, thinking that it’s logical to put the cart before the horse. But maybe I should look at the opposite scenario.

What if we had enough students but not enough instructors or curricula — or for that matter, enough modern equipment — to go around?

I’m not breaking any new ground here. Most of you know that there are more reasons for a labor shortage in the hvac trade than a lack of eager young students.

I recall countless times that I’ve been told that trade schools have dropped hvac courses because of a lack of interest, or because more popular courses attract more students. A lot of public schools are given funds based on the number of students they can place in their classrooms.

I got a little jolt of reality the other day when I received a response to our “Work Seekers” program. This reader praised our efforts to find students for hvac contractors and he wanted to throw his hat into the ring. The rub? He is a qualified instructor looking for a teaching position.

Norm Christopherson has a long list of credentials on the résumé he sent me. I won’t go into specifics, only to say that he has been a student, teacher, and service professional in the hvac trade for about 30 years. I was impressed by some of the things he wrote in his letter.

“I am an experienced hvac and refrigeration instructor who left teaching after 18 years and now desires to go back into teaching again. Would you be interested in featuring an experienced instructor looking for a new position? It would be interesting to see what the response would be to such a feature, with so many in our industry complaining about the lack of instructional quality in our industry.”

I wouldn’t agree with a lack of instructional quality; I’d say it was a more a lack of instructional facilities.

Christopherson makes some good points, and eye-opening ones at that.

“I am a high-quality instructor who provides content-rich classroom instruction, takes a genuine interest in teaching and learning, loves to develop curriculum and lesson plans, and am highly motivated at developing a quality instructional program.”

Not bad.

I remember speaking with my friend Bob Gracin, who runs the Michigan Hvac Vocational School in suburban Detroit. He told me that it was very important to find just the right experienced instructor who cared about the students and took the time to train them correctly.

It’s one thing to throw a warm body in a truck and deliver parts to a jobsite. It’s another thing to throw a qualified graduate right into the thick of things during a winter cold spell or summer heat wave.

I just wonder how many other Norm Christophersons are out there, wanting to help train students and make a difference in their lives. We could always use new spokespeople for our trade — those who want to take the message out to their communities that this is a viable profession and students are entitled to top-notch instructors as well as facilities.

There isn’t enough space in this column to talk about our need for better facilities and training equipment. Believe me, that commentary is coming soon.

For now, I will tell Norm that although his ad won’t run in the “Work Seekers” program, there’s a chance he’ll get a few calls if we publish his phone number (605-255-4951).

Now that’s putting the cart before the horse.

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