Ranken Technical College student Brad Bartz uses a multimeter and checks out the wiring atop a reach-in cooler in the laboratory.

[Editor’s note:The NEWShas been following the educational path of 24-year-old HVACR student Brad Bartz since he stepped into Ranken Technical College in St. Louis last fall. This is another in a series of reports on Bartz’s career path progress. On Aug. 20, Bartz began his second and final year at the private, nonprofit institution, located in St. Louis. To view previous articles, visit www.achrnews.com.]

ST. LOUIS - It was kind of a long summer for Brad Bartz. Working in the deli department at a local Schnuck’s grocery store is not necessarily the career choice for a 25-year-old. “I got a couple of raises during the summer, so I made more money,” pointed out the black-haired youth, trying to look at the positive side of the equation.

The truth be known, Bartz is glad to be back at Ranken Technical College, as this is his final year in the HVACR Technology program at the St. Louis-based trade school. Fall 2007 classes began Aug. 20. By May of 2008, Bartz looks to be graduating and finally entering his chosen field.

“Towards the end of the summer, yeah, I kind of wanted to go back [to school] because I had run out of things to do,” he confessed.

Bartz is already geeked about his HVAC 2111 and HVAC 2112 classes. Instructor Kevin Joyce is teaching the basics of commercial refrigeration plus light commercial heating and cooling theory. Less than two weeks into the semester, the Maryville, Ill., resident is trying to troubleshoot a reach-in cooler in the lab room.

“It’s cool to see how everything works,” he said. “I mean, one little, itty-bitty thing can make a whole lot of problems.”

It’s a hands-on exercise - and the eager student thrives on such challenges. “It does teach you a lot,” he admitted, adding that it beats sitting in a cubicle all day. “I’m not going to sit behind a desk. No way. That’s not good enough. Sorry, that’s not me. Can’t do it.”

Student Brad Bartz puts away his tools and belongings in the HVACR lab at Ranken Technical College.


Because Bartz has visions of stepping into the commercial refrigeration field in one way, shape, or form after graduation, he is taking this semester really seriously. “You have to take your time on these,” he said, referring to the troubleshooting assignments.

The son of Irene Mullenschlader and Jerry Bartz is in the midst of trying to repair a reach-in cooler, which is not maintaining its temperature for some strange reason. The inquisitive student thought he had the piece of equipment working the previous Friday, but upon returning to the lab on Monday, the cooler did not have a charge.

“It was working Friday,” he said, somewhat perplexed. “I had a good enough charge in it. There was good head and back pressure. But when I came in [today] and checked it, it had zero charge. There was no pressure on each side.”

Bartz sets the defrost timer to the correct time in hopes the procedure helps in getting a reach-in cooler working properly.

He was looking forward to solving the problem with his class partner, Emir Libic. After all, Bartz is keying on commercial refrigeration as his No. 1 career choice. “There’s more money in it,” he explained, matter-of-factly. “And, I like working with bigger equipment. I’m going to try to shoot for it.”

His instructor, Joyce, is a 1981 graduate of Ranken. While attending Ranken, he worked in the industry as a refrigeration mechanic. He serviced commercial refrigeration, hydronic equipment, performed preventive service on chiller systems and on pneumatic and electronic control systems. He began teaching evening school at Ranken in 1985 and was hired as a full-time instructor in 1987.

Joyce left Ranken in 1997 to work in the industry as a service manager for a local contractor and was later a senior technical advisor, regional sales manager, and equipment trainer for a major HVAC manufacturer. Last year he returned to Ranken as a full-time instructor in the HVACR department.

Ranken Technical College instructor Kevin Joyce (left) helps an HVACR student in his Commercial Refrigeration class.

Bartz admits his immediate goal might change after he takes his advanced residential heating and cooling class in the Winter 2008 semester. Department head Chris Brueggeman will be teaching that course. “There may be more opportunities in residential because [technicians] are in high demand right now,” he said. “This summer, it has been hot, and the winters have been somewhat cold, with ice storms and all of that. I’m sure more companies will be looking for [residential] techs.”

His current motto is may the best option win. “Basically, I am going to start out in servicing, be it in commercial refrigeration or residential heating and cooling. That’s what I am going to shoot for, but if I go into installation, then it will be installation. It’s a matter of who offers me what.”

Over the course of his final school year, Bartz expects his HVACR choice to become much clearer. “I am definitely going to have a better job than what I have right now,” he said, which is somewhat of an understatement. “I am going to quit my [deli] job in April [2008] and start concentrating on finding a job,” in HVACR.

After his Commercial Refrigeration class, but before going to his college composition class, HVACR student Bartz orders a sandwich at the cafeteria at Ranken Technical College.


In addition to commercial refrigeration, other courses Bartz is taking this semester includes oral communications (Communication 1105), college composition (English 2102), and sociology (Sociology 1206). Concerning his class choices, he said, “It’s part of the requirement. I don’t pick my courses.”

From his oral communications class, the second-year student is looking to improve his verbal presentation process. Among other tasks, instructor Julia Heller will have her students present a couple of timed speeches in front of the class room. “I like the teacher,” said Bartz, who knows the importance of having strong verbal skills. Working at a deli hasn’t hurt his delivery.

“I know the idea is to be friendly,” he said. “I am pretty much good in dealing with people. I have no problem talking to them.”

Glad to be back at Ranken Technical College after having the summer off, Bartz takes time out to eat a quick lunch at the school’s cafeteria before heading to another HVACR class.

Composition teacher Jeff May plans to keep his students writing this fall. Bartz knows he will be, among other assignments, writing five business letters. Throw in a couple of essays and a research paper, too. “I was out of school for a while, so it took me a little bit to get back into the swing of things,” he said. “But now I can write better and present better. I now understand more of what I read.”

His thoughts this day, however, are on that reach-in cooler. “I’m going to get it going,” he promised. N

Publication date:09/24/2007