LAS VEGAS - From a public relations standpoint, one could question hosting a serious educational conference at a place called Circus Circus. Isn’t that similar to having a Boston Red Sox convention at hotel and casino New York, New York?

In truth, it really didn’t matter where HVAC Excellence held its first-ever Educators & Trainers Conference. What mattered is that the not-for-profit organization managed to get together nearly 300 HVACR educators and trainers from approximately 250 schools for the purpose of learning what’s new in the industry, and discussing what needs to be taught in classrooms. The focus of the conference, held March 26-27, was professional development.

“We believe that education should be the focal point of our industry,” said Jerry Weiss, executive director of HVAC Excellence, “and that information should flow freely between industry and educators.

“Most of the conference attendees prepare the future workforce of America, providing an incalculable service to American industry and commerce,” he said. “This is just part of the job we must perform if we are to keep our industry current with the needs of the public. We must also provide ongoing training to those already in the field.”

While the venue may have been Circus Circus, there was no clowning around.

Tom Crandel, director of the Corporate and Professional Development Center at Ferris State University, talks about the partnership Ferris State created with Washtenaw Community College and the United Association.


At the opening general session, Betty Krump, executive director of the American Technical Education Association (ATEA), touched upon an important topic to all participants: the Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006, referred to as Perkins IV. Under the new law, “vocational education” is now known as “career and technical education.”

At the same time, state and local programs are being required to report on separate core performance indicators for secondary and postsecondary students. Institutions are being required to document student competency, to coordinate with the No Child Left Behind Act. There was still some questioning among educators, as well as lawmakers, as to how to prove that students are meeting “required and accepted industry standards.” HVAC Excellence said it could assist HVAC programs with meeting the new accountability measures by providing student outcome assessment training, along with employment-ready certifications.

During the conference, HVAC Excellence said 212 of the attendees began the process of the organization’s Certified Master HVAC Educator credentialing program, calling it “the highest credential conferred upon an HVAC instructor.” According to HVAC Excellence, passing the program means the instructor meets the standards of Perkins IV, as well as the No Child Left Behind Act.

Nearly 300 educators and trainers from approximately 250 schools attended HVAC Excellence’s first-ever HVAC Educators & Trainers Conference in Las Vegas.


How to meet the growing needs of the industry was a common theme among the presenters. It was noted that in the next decade, 40 percent of the HVAC industry would be retiring. In addition, the industry is becoming more and more technical. In the end, discussion surfaced as to how to go about filling 22,000 openings this industry will have each year over the next few years.

In the general session, Steve Allen, director of education and recruitment for the United Association (UA), offered help via the union’s 5-Star Career program. Under this program, if a student attends an HVAC Excellence-accredited HVACR program, the student is eligible to transfer his/her credits from the school into the United Associations’ apprenticeship program.

“This is a win-win situation for the students and the schools,” said Allen. “Students now can transfer credits to any UA local and be hired by the 21,000 affiliated employer partners of the UA. Schools that have been thinking about getting their programs accredited now have a new reason to consider accreditation. It can lead to their students having more job opportunities,” noting the UA represents over 330,000 members and 21,000 employer partners.

In a different presentation, Shannon Lippold, program manager for Johnson Controls’ (JCI’s) Building Efficiency Group, informed attendees of the company’s CareerConnect program, which is designed to establish strategic partnerships with select technical colleges, community colleges, and universities that offer “highly reputable” HVAC programs.

“Most people in the industry are aware of the pending shortage of skilled HVAC professionals due to the upcoming retirements of the Baby Boom era,” said Lippold. “JCI expected to lose 48 percent of its skilled journeymen to retirement within the next 18 years, and that does not include those that leave on a voluntary or involuntary basis. In 2004, Johnson Controls began to study how this trend would affect its service business.”

What evolved was CareerConnect, whereby Johnson Controls branches collaborate with select colleges “to choose the most meaningful program deliverables and develop a custom program aimed at enhancing student curriculum, assisting in faculty development, increasing community awareness, and building a pipeline of technical recruits.”

When the education institution and branch come to a consensus on what their program will entail and agree upon any shared costs, Johnson Controls provides a nonbinding letter of intent, which details each party’s responsibilities, explained Lippold. To date, this program has produced 44 hires nationwide in two years for Johnson Controls.

In yet another presentation, Tom Crandel, director of the Corporate and Professional Development Center at Ferris State University, talked about the partnership the university created with Washtenaw Community College and the UA. He said the program allows the university to issue college credits for traditional classroom and on-the-job training.

“Our partnership with Washtenaw allows each UA apprentice to earn 32 credits for each five-year apprenticeship,” he said, noting that credits may be applied to an associate’s degree in several fields. “These associate degrees can then be transferred to one of our four-year university partners.”

Under this program, all degree programs may be completed remotely, without having to visit the college campus. At the same time, degree requirements for each program are specific to each university.


Some of the featured speakers at the two-day event included John Tomczyk of Ferris State, who provided an update on 13 SEER and its ramifications; Julius Banks, program manager for Refrigerants, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who held town hall-style meetings to discuss the use and phaseout of HCFCs and required certifications; and Bob Dwyer, director of training for Bacharach, who taught participants the importance of identifying carbon monoxide in homes and buildings.

John Hohman, Ph.D., director of research and assessment validation for HVAC Excellence, supplied two different teaching seminars. In one lecture, he encouraged teachers to consider performance testing, noting that “written testing alone will not reveal the skill and how skills are used, understood, and applied.”

“The purpose of all testing should be to evaluate progress and remediate, to provide feedback to the learner, to emphasize the importance of cognitive and psychomotor requirements, and to provide a final measure of skill and knowledge, or to qualify persons to do specific work,” he said.

“Performance testing is the most expensive, the most time consuming, the least used, but the most powerful.”

In his second session, Hohman discussed training techniques, providing his own “golden rules.” His top advice for the crowd was “not to just lecture, as lecturing is lousy. Telling is not training.” He noted that the best instructor finds a way to the back of the class, rather than the front, and “if there is no classroom preparation, there is no performance.” He also recommended having an evaluation in place to gauge the progress of learning.

“Try to get everyone to know each other in unique and memorable ways,” he said. “Get everyone interacting with the information.”

Before the conference was over, Dan Chiles, chairman of the new Green Mechanical Council (GreenMech), provided some alarming facts regarding global warming and the need to address it in the classroom. He encouraged educators to not only join GreenMech, but to touch upon “green” habits in the classroom.

“HVAC Excellence is proud to be part of the solution in the industry in helping aid educators and trainers in their professional development,” said Howard Weiss, HVAC Excellence marketing director.

“HVAC Excellence looks forward to making next year’s event bigger and better than 2007.”

Publication date:04/23/2007