“We try to get as much training as possible,” said Espinosa, who started his five-employee contracting business three years ago. “Any time a class is offered, we try to get involved with it. Being a small company, we have to stay on top of things in order to compete.”
TRYING TO MEET THE NEEDSRaymond Granderson will be the first to tell you that there is a definite need for training within this industry. “The need has become greater as the products continue to be more advanced and sophisticated,” said the training manager for Rheem Heating and Cooling Division.
It’s one reason the manufacturer is now offering its distributors, contractors, and technicians educational opportunities via one Website, www.thetrainingnetwork.com. The site offers four learning areas: total access training, true success training, time-out training, and top technician training.
“The training network continues in 2008 our dedication to providing a changing and expanding menu of training services for Rheem and Ruud HVAC contractors across North America to support and assist contractors with the tools for success that today’s changing and challenging industry requires,” said Granderson. “With the introduction of our new 2008 course catalogue and program enhancements we’ve made, we are confident the Rheem and Ruud contractors have a full menu of learning tools to assist them in their goals of continuous business growth and development.”
While on-the-job training was the norm for the industry when he was younger, Granderson said, “That is not applicable now with all the technology. Contractors need to be aware that they need to get that good foundation, that quality training, and then get on-the-job training.”
Thanks to its new total access training area, contractors have total access to many training program offerings and can learn at their convenience and when their schedule permits. This new online multimedia learning management system is now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and focuses on various technical and mechanical subjects. Currently available are classes on R-410A, thermostatic expansion valves, commercial economizers, variable-speed motor technology, improving compressor reliability, comfort control system, and modulating 90-plus gas furnaces.
“We’re going to keep adding to this,” said Granderson. “We are trying hard to reach contractors where they are at. We have responded with more recent trends and shorter classes. We still want the intensity and quality, but, as a whole, we’ve developed a shorter training program that can be done in two or three hours.”
Recognizing that a contractor’s training needs go beyond technical, Granderson, on behalf of Rheem, partnered with several industry-leading trainers to offer classes in business areas such as sales, finance, and business management. In the true success-training arena, among those enlisted are JBResources, Ligon Consulting, Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), Energy Design Systems, Sales Improvement Professionals, Jim Hinshaw, Ron Collier, and Adams Hudson.
“Here training is offered by industry-renowned, third-party trainers who are experts in their respective fields, on subjects including sales, finance, business management, and other subjects that go beyond the product and technical aspects of owning and operating a successful HVAC business,” said Granderson.
“Each of the true success partners are experts in helping contractors become more profitable. The professionally developed and proven programs are designed to help contractors improve their company’s productivity and overall performance, close the deal on more sales, sell up techniques to add value in new HVAC systems offered, and become more successful business people.”
AND MORE TRAININGMeanwhile, the new time-out training curriculum features CD-ROM-based technical training modules that are designed to fit into those short time segments that occur during many days and allows serious contractor techs to stay on top of the latest trends and technologies. Each module is designed to improve tech competence, which is designed to improve technician productivity and customer service. Modules include a wide range of mechanical, electrical, residential, and commercial subjects.
“The time-out training is shorter modules, instructor-led,” said Granderson. “Some are two to three hours, at most. It’s a time that a tech can take time out for high-quality training. We live in an era that Internet and online classes are popular, so we have to reach this population.
“Contractors can take time out from their busy schedules, step back, regroup with timely, shorter-in-duration training that might include lunch or dinner.”
The top technician training, one of the more popular CD-ROM-based training offered by Rheem, remains the cornerstone of the manufacturer’s training efforts. It offers training in technical areas that are designed to enable techs to learn basic concepts and progress to high-level competency in equipment installation and diagnostics.
Many classes are accredited by North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and are eligible for NATE certification. Programs offered include 80 percent gas furnaces, 90-plus gas furnaces, residential heat pump systems, air conditioning characteristics, airflow characteristics, split system electrical a/c characteristics, and modulating 90-plus gas furnaces.
“The top technician classes typically are four to six hours in length, depending upon the subject matter, instructor, and class dynamics,” said Granderson.
Rheem will continue to host hands-on classes at distributor sites, too. It’s to compliment what is offered online through the training network. “They’ve got a great training program,” complimented Steve Hildebrand of Dealers Supply, based in Forest Park, Ga. Hildebrand supplies needed training for dealers in North and South Carolina.
“I can do individual shops or we can do it at a distributor,” said Hildebrand. “Right now, 410A classes are big. I probably put on 15 individual shops over the past few weeks.”
Contractors like Espinosa appreciate the company’s efforts.
“It is very helpful,” he said, “especially with new thermostats and everything. Who has time to sit in a class? Better yet, who has the time to teach? I can’t teach them everything. With this training online, it is so much better.”