Brad Bartz (left) is all smiles at the graduation ceremony. His mother, Irene Mullenschlader (right), is all smiles, too.

ST. LOUIS - He at least looked confident taking his diploma from HVACR Technology chair, Chris Brueggeman. However, even though this was the night Brad Bartz was saying goodbye to Ranken Technical College, the 25-year-old Maryville, Ill., resident was still uncertain where he would be next.

“Not sure,” said Bartz, after the pomp-and-circumstance ceremonies, held at the Family Arena May 8. “I’ve got some options I’m looking into.”

Don’t tell his mother, Irene Mullenschlader, but Bartz is seriously looking into heading off to the San Francisco area, not only to find work but to live near his father, Jerry Bartz. During spring break, Bartz took a trip to California and, well, kind of liked the change of scenery.

“I didn’t want to come back,” he admitted. “I have a couple of friends out there.”

Whatever the case, with a two-year associate’s degree in HVACR technology, Bartz looks to land a job in the not-so-distant future. After all, the industry is in dire need of technicians, especially young ones. Even though he may have taken a longer road to get to where he is today, Bartz is happy with his decision to join the HVACR ranks.

“I like it,” he said, referring to his time at Ranken, which promotes that it gives graduates exposure to an average of five to seven job opportunities. “I learned a lot and I don’t regret it.”


Where he is today is a heck of a lot different from where he was just before the fall of 2006. He came to learn HVAC after bouncing from job to job. Bartz did not necessarily take high school seriously and joined the construction field soon after stepping out of high school. It was a rocky road; he was let go of one job after he showed up late for an early morning concrete pour.

“I shouldn’t have overslept, which is not a good thing overall,” he confessed in an earlier interview. “I felt real bad about it. I apologized to [the construction owner]. My foreman said it was okay, but then the owner said I had to go.”

And, yes, at a different contracting firm, he was dropped after failing to report back to work with a doctor’s note in hand.

“I didn’t think [owner] was going to go crazy on me without a doctor’s note,” said Bartz, explaining his position on the matter. “I didn’t have money to go to the doctor. If I would have known that, I would have asked my mom to take me to the doctor or something because I did not have insurance. Money was really tight back then because I was actually paying about 700 bucks a month just for rent.”

Bartz searches for the right tool at Ranken Technical College. The Maryville, Ill., resident graduated with an associate’s degree on May 8.

In the end, it was these life road bumps that drove Bartz to Ranken. He thought jumping straight into the workforce right out of high school was cool, but it turned out to be a tad harder than he thought.

“What got me interested in heating and cooling was working for the remodeling company,” he said. “We subcontracted out the heating and cooling if we needed something fixed on a furnace or the air conditioning unit. I was getting paid like $14 an hour and he [service technician] was getting paid $40 an hour. I’m like, I’m in the wrong business.”

The light bulb went on.

“My buddy has actually gone to Ranken and he had told me about it,” he said. “He had a degree as a machinist. Now he is making good money, working for a machinist shop.”

He turned to his grandfather, Bob Churchich, for advice. “My grandpa is like, ‘Why don’t you try heating and cooling because they need you year-round, plus you get paid more.’ I’m like, ‘All right.’”

The rest, they say, is history.

Bartz works on a heat pump at Ranken Technical College. Bartz earned his associate’s degree in HVACR Technology.


Over the next few days, Bartz said he will make a decision as to where he plans to live and work. He could land anywhere, he said.

“Whatever offer I get, I’ll consider it and see what happens from there,” he said.

Some day, he would like to have a business of his own. “That is what I plan on doing,” he said. “I mean, I know it’s going to be long hours, but I like working. I like to earn my money … you know? You have so much more of a sense of pride out of it.”

The bottom line is this: The eyes and mind are now on the target. “I’ve always been good with my hands,” said Bartz. “I like working with my hands. I could not take a desk job. I couldn’t do it. It would drive me crazy.”

In an upcoming issue…The NEWSwill continue to follow Bartz in his career path. Look for updates in future issues.

Publication date:05/26/2008