One of the most significant benefits provided by this publication is its annual tradition of honoring the “Best Trainer” in our industry. It’s significant because it brings awareness to the importance of training. The need to provide training is something which, as contractors, we need to continually remind ourselves about.
You Never Stop Learning
One of the things that makes the HVAC industry interesting is the fact that it is continually evolving and changing. As a result, the training that an individual received several years ago, while valuable, does not necessarily prepare that individual for the new generations of equipment that manufacturers are producing today. Therefore, HVAC training is something that needs to be provided on a continual basis.
We have all heard that in most surveys, the No. 1 issue facing contractors around the country is the availability of skilled technicians. While it is really a separate issue, one of the things we need to do collectively is recruit young people into the HVAC field. There are many more glamorous jobs out there, so it is up to us to emphasize to the young people entering the workforce the benefits and satisfaction that can be obtained as an HVAC technician. And it is important that, as we bring these new people into the industry, we provide them with interesting and relevant training.
In our company, we believe that there are two important aspects to the training that we give to our employees. The first has to do with the technical, hands-on training, which is absolutely essential when working on the new, sophisticated furnaces and air conditioners that are becoming so prevalent. The second part of the training, and in our opinion is equally as important if not more important than technical training, is what we will call the soft skills. This refers to the technician’s interactions with homeowners. We have found it is really much easier to teach a technically oriented individual the skills required to install and service today’s era of furnaces and air conditioners than it is to teach him or her the skills necessary to treat Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner properly. However, in the big picture, in order to retain each and every customer as your customer, the importance of the way the customer is treated is more important than the actual method in which the repair is made.
As a union contractor, our technicians receive the majority of their technical training at the local joint apprenticeship training center. However, we have our own internal training methods we use to train them on the ways we want them to handle each and every service call.
While I feel we do a good job, I am envious of some of the very sophisticated and relevant training programs provided by some of the most successful contractors in our industry. Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, based in Rochester, N.Y., has the most sophisticated program with which I am familiar. Their Isaac University provides hours of training on all types of equipment and also provides the path for their technicians to become North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certified. Visit their website at www.isaacheating.com to see a program that should be the goal of everyone in our business.
I anticipate that many of you smaller contractors are feeling that you don’t have the time or resources to do the type of training that the larger contractors are providing. My response is that the cost of not training is a lot greater than the actual cost of training. In other words, if you are going to compete in today’s highly competitive environment you have to find a way to make time to train your employees.
The new generation of individuals entering our workforce responds to different types of training methods than their predecessors. In summary, all of us need to expose our employees to up-to-date, relevant training in both the technical and nontechnical aspects of the HVAC business. No matter how much we would like to have someone else be responsible for this training, in the end, it is our responsibility as owners and managers to make sure that our employees are trained to properly represent our company.
Publication date: 8/19/2013