No matter the trade, job training is important. This is especially true in the HVACR industry. As HVAC equipment becomes more complex and new technologies are introduced, the need for continual theory, practicality, and hands-on training is essential to understand, install, and service new equipment.
More Training, Less Trouble
The manufacturers who are mostly responsible for creating and implementing new HVAC technologies and designs are taking the initiative to teach others all about it.
“Our training programs have grown exponentially in the past few years,” said A.J. Mitchell, training leader, continuous education & customer development, Victaulic Co. “In an environment that is very dynamic with new technologies, responsibilities, turnover, and ongoing training and education allows our customers to keep current.”
Manufacturer training not only offers contractors an opportunity to see the technology up close, it lends them a chance to put their hands on the equipment and learn proper applications.
“Service issues associated with improper installation are an industry-wide issue as more advanced technology comes to market,” said Mark Hatala, national distributor installer program manager, LG Electronics USA Commercial Air Conditioning. “It is critical for HVAC technicians to understand the new technologies that are becoming prevalent in the market and how proper installation is a key contributor for realizing the enhanced performance and efficiency capabilities of these updated systems. No one can argue the importance of a properly installed system, no matter the brand.
“Through LG’s learning management system and LG Academy locations across the U.S., we offer a variety of online and hands-on courses — from our basic refrigeration classes for building owners all the way to advanced commissioning and startup classes for contractors,” said Hatala. “Online and hands-on course themes for distributor and contractor partners range from LG product application and installation techniques to service and maintenance training.”
This spring, the company launched the LG excellence contractor program, a comprehensive training and contractor support program designed to assist independent HVAC contractors in selling, installing, and servicing LG duct-free split (DFS) systems.
According to Joyce Kohr, marketing manager, Robinson Supply Inc., manufacturers are enticing contractors to take more training by offering incentives to the contractor, usually in the form of an additional warranty, listing on a website, etc.
“Manufacturers believe that by training the contractor how they want their equipment installed, it will be less likely the equipment will fail when installed properly,” she said.
Added Kohr, “Many contractors, if they can find time, want as much education as possible. The new LG excellence program is a perfect example. Contractors must take online courses and spend a day in LG’s training facility in order to gain incentives from the manufacturer. Contractors are willing to go the extra mile to learn for added perks. This training will help them to succeed better in their business by not having as many callbacks, and the manufacturer will look at them as a trusted resource for consumer leads.”
Contractors and their employees are not the only ones receiving training from manufacturers.
“Victaulic offers contractors, building owners, and engineers educational opportunities so these groups can keep current on topics such as roll grooving, seismic accommodation, thermal movement, hydronic balancing, and inspection services,” said Mitchell.
Another manufacturer that holds training for different groups in the industry is Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating.
“We offer a variety of training to educate and inform our customers about our diverse product lines, including both residential [such as the M- and P-Series service course] and commercial [with the City Multi],” said India London, senior instructional designer, Mitsubishi Electric US Cooling & Heating Division. “As a manufacturer, we want to ensure that our distributors, contractors, engineers, architects, and even homeowners are thoroughly educated on our product lines, so each training course must go through an extensive assessment to determine that the curriculum offers ideal learning for the customer, whoever the customer is in that situation.”
Wholesaler equipment training is important because distributors often play a part in contractors’ product education.
Kevin Barnum, vice president, Victor Distributing Co., deems training contractors a group effort. “Over the last five years, the technology being introduced into our industry has accelerated at an incredible speed,” he said. “I have found that to get the particulars of these advanced products into the minds of the contractor has taken an extraordinary amount of effort on behalf of the manufacturers, reps, and wholesale distributors. More often than not, our end of the supply chain has to band together to make a group push to educate the contractor.”
He continued, “In the early stages of product introduction, we typically do our best to get our staff and salesmen up to speed to understand the product. This helps to give a buffer time so that we can explore and build our confidence with a particular product and to see if there are any issues we discover with performance or manufacturer claims that may be inaccurate,” said Barnum.
“We then target appropriate contractors with a solid track record of early adoption to the type of product we are introducing. We then team up with manufacturer resources for training and market direction at the street level.”
Learning partly depends on the ability of the trainer to present the material. David Imig, trainer, EWC Controls Inc., is a highly acclaimed trainer. Randy Boyd, president, AC Supply Co., Fort Worth, Texas, called Imig the industry’s best information presenter. “His [Imig’s] presentation is informative, energetic, and fun. He knows how to put on a presentation.”
Boyd thinks that more attention should be given to reps’ and salespeople’s presentation skills and training.
Beyond Equipment Training
Not all training offered by manufacturers is directly linked to their equipment. Lennox offers courses focused specifically on job training. In the BuildATech™ course, which involves a blend of online and classroom learning, Lennox trains people to be techs, many of whom are new to the industry, as well as some installers who want to become technicians.
“The individual that you hired that has good aptitude and a good personality, following the four-week training, has learned the skills to be a functioning maintenance tech,” stated Mike Moore, director, training and development, Lennox — HVAC Learning Solutions®.
The BuildATech program is offered to Lennox dealers and to NexStar Network members.
Among Lennox’s other training is a BuildASalesperson™ program, “which does the same thing as the BuildATech program except it does it for a comfort advisor who is brand new to the industry,” said Moore.
Many companies offer a variety of courses and topics to fit the student’s job needs, time availability, etc. For example, Fluke offers “seminars, hands-on workshops, and live and online webinars covering topics such as electrical safety, power quality, thermal imaging, process tools, motors and drives, and vibration. In addition, we have applications notes, case studies, and videos customers can access on the training center section on our website. Also, this month we launched our energy resource center where customers can learn how to reduce energy costs,” said Corey Glassman, training manager and tradeshow events coordinator, Fluke Corp. — Industrial Group.
By taking certain manufacturer-led courses, attendees can earn continuing education units (CEUs) and/or the classes are recognized by organizations such as North American Technician Excellence (NATE).
Some companies who offer HVAC training hold courses at one of their training centers, such as Mitsubishi Electric’s new training centers in Chicago and Orlando, Fla., as well as at a distributor or contractor’s location, some of which are authorized distributor locations. Others hold classroom courses only at their training centers.
And while some courses are held in the classroom, others are offered online, which permits students to attend courses at their convenience.
Ritchie Engineering Co. Inc. — Yellow Jacket Products Div.’s training is available exclusively online. The company has taken all of its training online to a portal named YJU, which offers training videos about proper techniques for using the company’s products, as well as through webinars.
“We also offer full-length videos on proper techniques for refrigerant recovery, tips for efficiently preparing a system for charging, and effective tubing tools techniques,” said Mary Jo Gentry, marketing communications manager, Ritchie Engineering Co. Inc. — Yellow Jacket Products Div.
In addition, the company presents its online training through distributor online learning centers “by making our video content available on these sites as well as Johnstone University, BlueHawk University, etc.,” said Gentry.
In the end, no matter the class topic or course location, training is only useful if the knowledge the student has learned is put into practice. Moore summed up the message for training as: “It is important to take ‘training,’ turn it into ‘learning,’ and then turn it into ‘performance.’
Head of the Class
Here’s a look at some popular courses companies offer:
• Ritchie Engineering Co. Inc. — Yellow Jacket Products Division offers a 30-minute evacuation and charging techniques training video. It covers safety, choosing the right pump for the job, pump accessories that increase efficiencies (or the right tools for the job), the evacuation and charge process, vacuum pump maintenance features, and benefits of Yellow Jacket vacuum pumps and gauges. “Visitors of YJU can register as a student and take a quiz to test what they’ve learned. Upon completion, they can print a certificate and become eligible for a prize drawing of Yellow Jacket tools at the end of each semester,” said Mary Jo Gentry, marketing communications manager.
• Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating Division’s three-day City Multi service course “provides participants with an in-depth understanding of the technologies used in the City Multi system,” said India London, senior instructional designer. “Other course materials include theories associated with properly applying, installing, commissioning, and troubleshooting City Multi systems. The class also incorporates practical hands-on exercises.
• Fluke Corp.’s hour-long online electrical safety session “provides an awareness of electrical measurement hazards, a better understanding of the safety specifications for digital multimeters and testers, an understanding of the four installation measurement categories, and how to minimize and avoid electrical measurement hazards,” said Corey Glassman, training manager and tradeshow events coordinator.
• LG Electronics USA Commercial Air Conditioning’s installation procedures class teaches installation techniques, procedures, and tools. Mark Hatala, national distributor installer program manager, said, “During this course, the importance of proper installation to ensure proper system performance levels, lifecycle, and overall customer satisfaction is also covered. The course is typically taught in town hall settings at distributor or contractor locations.”
• Lennox’s master $elling™ class for experienced comfort advisors covers the changes in the HVAC market. The course assists in identifying consumer needs; creating authentic sales differentiation; handling price within 15 minutes of a call; using EER to increase high-efficiency sales; improving variable-speed, two-stage, and accessory sales; empowering the consumer through system design; using financing effectively; executing an effective sales presentation; closing with confidence, comfort, and composure; follow-up strategies; and referral generation.
• Victaulic Co.’s contractor certification program “was designed to certify contractors to properly install grooved mechanical piping systems through an intensive hands-on training,” said A.J. Mitchell, training leader, continuous education & customer development. “This full-day seminar includes two core sections; grooving fundamentals (the basics of grooving and piping best practices) and installation fundamentals (a more detailed understanding of Victaulic products, installation steps, and verifying proper assemblies).” The presentation can be offered anywhere, whether at the job site or a corporate facility.
Publication date: 6/3/2013