MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - For the past three years, representatives of the Air Conditioning Technical Center (AC Tech) - a vocational school in Miami - have been visiting area high schools making career presentations. The seminars address primarily junior and senior students informing them of the career options available in the field of a/c service, installation, and maintenance. This also includes the air conditioning side of mechanical contracting, and pipefitting on the construction side of the industry.
“These days, it is hard for graduating high school students to find work or even a viable college education. Florida’s college tuition rates continue to rise and some community colleges have even reached enrollment capacity, shutting many students out,” said Art Warren, training director at AC Tech. “So, we have been visiting young people in their classrooms to let them know they still have options. They don’t have to start their careers by taking out huge loans.”
Funded by the Mechanical Contractors Association of South Florida, AC Tech produces apprentices that are able to work for area contractors who are members of the association.
Tom Cummings, instructional supervisor in technology education with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, encourages area schools to schedule these sessions for their students.
“The presentations are ideally suited for small groups of 30 or less, in an informal classroom setting,” he said. “They give the students an opportunity to gain in-depth understanding of the training and work setting. The program targets students who like to work with machines and tools and who enjoy variety and problem solving.”
LABOR POOL REFILLWarren noted that South Florida contractors appreciate and back the AC Tech high school presentations because they help to ensure an ongoing stream of new workers.
Antonio Perez, director of service at Weathertrol Maintenance, a Miami-based a/c mechanical contractor and maintenance corporation, recently wrote to AC Tech to thank them for their community involvement.
“I thank you for keeping this program alive. It is important that we provide our wisdom and guidance to the new generation who will be the future work force of tomorrow,” said Perez in the letter. “These talks are much more than recruitment opportunities. They provide guidance and hope to students as they prepare for a journey into the future.”
AN INVITING ALTERNATIVE“During the current recession, trade schools like AC Tech are becoming an inviting alternative for many students,” said Warren. “They are usually much less expensive than four-year colleges and even community colleges, and the resulting employment often offers greater security. That is especially true with air conditioning training in Miami, where indoor cooling is a year-round necessity.”
According to AC Tech and several industry reports, construction industry workers are Baby Boomers, and as they retire or leave the industry, more workers will be needed to replace them.
“The age of the average construction worker is about 47,” said Michael Mueller, labor chairman for AC Tech’s education committee. “As they retire, they take vital skills with them. The demand for highly trained workers will increase even more, now that the economy is starting to improve.” Providing no cost training to interested students, AC Tech continues to fuel an influx of technicians to the HVACR industry, benefitting both the contractor and the new apprentice.
“Apprentices can make money by working for area contractors,” said Warren. “They earn while they learn.”
Enrollees receive a starting wage of $13.95 an hour for the first six months and $14.95 an hour for the next six months. Health benefits kick in after the first year. Once they graduate to journeyman status, they can earn up to $32.10 an hour plus benefits, for a total package of $41.65.
AC Tech officials hope that their high school presentations will result in more young people finding secure futures. “It’s hard enough for young people these days to live on their own,” Warren said. “We’re happy to be able to launch new careers and lives that will be free of long-term tuition debt.”
For more information, visit www.actech.jobs.
Publication date: 04/19/2010