Professional training is an essential component of most successful companies in the refrigeration and air conditioning industries. By visibly and publicly supporting professional training for its technicians, an HVACR business tells its customers that it is committed to ensuring they receive the most reliable, competent, and professional service possible.
Even more importantly, professional training can help a company improve the performance and efficiencies of its technicians in the field. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying: “Training doesn’t cost — it pays.”
Finally, professional training also helps you attract and retain the most desirable personnel — people who are committed to improving themselves and their career prospects by acquiring new knowledge and skills.
Unfortunately, for most HVACR business owners and managers, training is only one of many responsibilities. So, when it comes time to choose which training courses to authorize and approve for technicians, the decision can be difficult. Those charged with choosing the courses often don’t have an adequate frame of reference for comparing program offerings — and don’t have a lot of time to spend researching the various offerings from manufacturers, vendors, trade schools, and other providers of training courses.
One way to help simplify the choice and make a sound training decision is to remember the “Three A’s” — appropriate, accredited, and accessible. To be effective, the training courses you choose must meet all three criteria.
Is the course relevant to students and your business? The first requirement of any training course is that it should be appropriate to the person being trained. A technician with many years of experience might find a course on refrigeration fundamentals to be tedious. On the other hand, a newly hired apprentice could be quickly overwhelmed by an advanced course that focuses on high-level skills he or she is not yet ready to tackle.
Ideally, your training provider will offer a wide range of courses, appropriate to all skill levels and all subspecialties within the industry.
The same principle holds true for product training offered by manufacturers. Obviously, training on the newest computer-controlled office and commercial building climate control systems is essential for technicians who will be installing and maintaining those systems. While a residential air conditioning technician could also find such a course to be interesting and eye-opening, it would not be particularly applicable to his or her day-to-day work on home air conditioning systems. Without the opportunity to begin regularly applying what was learned, the new skills and knowledge would soon begin to fade.
Does it offer continuing education credits (CEUs) or other credits? Accreditation is your assurance that the course you’re sending your technicians to (or the course you’re attending yourself) has been reviewed by objective professionals and meets the standards of today’s continuing education and training industry. One of the most respected and sought-after accreditations is offered by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). In order to offer IACET CEUs, the training provider must complete an extensive accreditation process that includes an audit to ensure that necessary policies, processes, and documentation are in place, along with a formal review by the IACET commission and an on-site inspection by an IACET representative. IACET accreditation is a sign that the training provider is committed to best practices in adult learning.
Within the HVACR industry, certification by North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is also a must. NATE is a nonprofit certification program specifically designed for HVACR technicians. Continuing education hours (CEHs) are one of the ways NATE provides for technicians to meet their periodic recertification requirements. Ideally, any course you authorize for your technicians should be offered by a NATE-recognized provider, and should offer CEHs that are aligned with the participant’s specialty.
In all cases, you should make sure the person attending the training receives a formal certificate of completion that can be used toward the relevant professional accreditation program.
Is it practical and convenient? Even the best training is worthless if you can’t make it to class. Continuing education classes should be offered in a format and setting that makes training convenient, practical, and effective.
Obviously, some skills are best learned through hands-on experience. At Emerson, for example, some of our most popular classes include several hours of compressor disassembly and reassembly so technicians can see the inner workings of refrigeration compressors and understand the factors that can affect their performance.
Of course, taking a technician out of the field to attend several days of hands-on training is not always practical, even though it can be highly beneficial in the long run. Fortunately, technology has evolved to the point where many highly effective training courses can be offered in shorter instructor-led sessions or through online distance-learning programs. Here again, it is important to make sure that any distance learning courses you or your technicians participate in are fully accredited.
Your technicians should also remember to keep track of their training courses for recertification purposes. NATE, for instance, does not maintain CEHs — it is the technician’s responsibility to submit proof of completion when applying for recertification.
Fortunately — once again — technology is providing solutions. To cite one example, Emerson Educational Services recently introduced a new Online Training Portal at https://education.emersonclimate.com that allows technicians to track their training performance, maintain a permanent record of training history, and register for professional continuing education credits. So, when the deadline for recertification approaches, the information that’s needed is all together in a single location.
Training is truly an essential component of any professional organization. But it also represents a major commitment — on the part of the student who’s attending a course or participating in online training and on the part of the company that’s paying for him or her to complete a course. To get the most for your training dollar, remember the “Three A’s,” and make sure the courses you select are appropriate to the technicians you are training, accredited by the relevant professional organizations, and accessible to the people you are going to train.
Publication date: 1/20/2014