“The time is now for technical education in America,” said Nick Pinchuk, chairman and CEO, Snap-On Inc., as he opened up the 2015 National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3) Leadership Summit in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Pinchuk was one of many speakers, presenters, and instructors who took the time during the event to highlight the need for technical education throughout the country.

Many of these presenters gave specific examples of how the skills gap can be bridged moving forward.

“The wind is at our backs for this sort of work,” said Eric Seleznow, deputy assistant secretary, employment and training division, U.S. Department of Labor. “There have been 64 months of job growth with more than 12.5 million new jobs over that time, which is more than we lost during the recession. Five years ago, there was one job for every seven applicants. Now, it’s one job for every 1.6 or 1.7 applicants. Jobs have come back, and it makes this kind of work that much more important.”

The NC3 Summit brings creative thinkers and educators together to discuss best practices, visions for the future, and ways to further collaborate within the HVAC industry. The U.S. Departments of Education and Labor were represented, as were groups, such as the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) and Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); and manufacturers Trane, Snap-On, and Starrett were also featured.


Several Leadership Development Sessions provided a forum for educators and policy makers to showcase their ideas.

One session, led by Clark Coco, dean of the Washburn Institute of Technology in Topeka, Kansas, showcased a letter of intent program his school created in an attempt to mimic what collegiate athletes go through when selecting a school. The event, which mirrors college football’s “National Signing Day” is designed to drum up student excitement and interest in technical education.

“Think about the power a student feels when he or she is needed and wanted,” said Coco. “There is nothing more powerful than that.”

Students enrolling at Washburn go through the full process of signing on the dotted line, putting on a Washburn Tech hat, and sitting at the podium in front of family and friends as they make their decision.

Gateway Technical College, Kenosha, Wisconsin, the host location for the NC3 summit, also takes part in National Signing Day, and many educators in attendance at NC3 said they would consider following this model next year and joining in.


The future of the HVAC industry was also a focal point of the session led by Scott Tew, executive director, center for energy efficiency & sustainability, Ingersoll Rand.

“Eighty-two percent of students think companies are integrating sustainability into core business strategies and practices better than they did five years ago,” said Tew. “The industry wants sustainability-minded graduates who have demonstrated an aptitude as integrated learners.”

Tew highlighted the importance of sustainability on a global scale moving forward, reflecting on the fact that ideas once thought to be absurd are now common knowledge, including the fact that scholars used to believe the earth was flat and doctors used to endorse and advertise the benefits of smoking.

According to Tew, Ingersoll Rand is committed to a 50 percent reduction in the direct greenhouse gas (GHG) potential for its HVACR products by 2020. The company also wants a 35 percent reduction in the GHG footprint of its office buildings, manufacturing facilities, and vehicle fleet by 2020.


While everyone at the conference was focused on increasing student interest in technical education, one presenter also wanted to ensure the value of educational policies on their paths to a career.

“When it comes to career technical education, our policies are in the way sometimes that we can’t even see,” said Mary Alice McCarthy, senior policy analyst, the New America Foundation.

McCarthy led a session centered around the idea that while the skills gap is a real issue, so, too, is the gap between educational policies and the actual needs of students.

In her report, titled, “Beyond the Skills Gap,” McCarthy said: “These policy gaps make it too easy for institutions to provide very low-quality career education programs while also making it too difficult for these same institutions to build the partnerships and programs that will facilitate student transitions to jobs and careers. Fixing the policy gaps will help institutions provide education and credentials that are valuable to students, employers, and communities.”


The NC3 conference was held in conjunction with the quarter annual Train-the-Trainer event, where instructors from across the country earn NC3 certifications.

Starrett Corp. introduced a new certification in precision measurement, and Trane announced multiple new certification partnerships.

The Energy Center Certification lab tours included stops at Gateway Technical College’s building automation controls, tools at height, building performance instruments, and residential learning spaces.

“At the NC3 Train-the-Trainer workshops, we’ve trained more than 100 instructors,” said Bryan Albrecht, president and CEO, Gateway Technical College. “That puts us collectively at over 1,100 certified instructors in a multitude of platforms.”

“This is our 15th Train-the-Trainer event in a little over six years,” said Roger Tadajewski, executive director, NC3. “Now, we are doing these quarterly across the country, and this is the largest one to date.”

The number of instructors certified through the Train the Trainer event has consistently grown. At the 2012 summer event, nearly 60 instructors earned certifications, and the 2013 version had 77 instructors take part.

NC3’s 16th Train-the-Trainer program will take place Sept. 14-17, at Linn-Benton Community College in Lebanon, Oregon. For more information, visit www.nc3.net.

Publication date: 9/21/2015

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