The world is changing and the refrigeration industry is changing along with it, but the refrigeration field is strong and will continue to be a great industry to work in for the next generation.
Those are the words of Mike Thompson, vice president of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), who spoke with The NEWS at the society’s annual meeting in September. Thompson, plant engineer for the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has been in the refrigeration industry for more than 40 years.
“I’ve made a good life for myself and my family in this industry, and it’s going to be a good place to be for the foreseeable future,” Thompson said. “If anything, this industry will only continue to grow in importance.”
Of course, that growth will require good people, and, Thompson said, one of the continuing challenges the refrigeration industry faces is attracting enough young people to keep the industry — and RSES — viable. As an RSES chapter member for 20 years and an international board member for five years, Thompson — along with others — is taking steps to showcase the industry to the younger generation.
“We’re reaching down into the high school level in the vo-tech area to educate students about refrigeration and help nudge them into our field,” said Thompson, who noted the industry competes with other industries that are also facing manpower shortages, including plumbing, electrical, and automobile service and repair.
The RSES conference featured a program for vocational students in which instructors and teachers presented students with the many opportunities awaiting them in the HVACR industry.
“They hear about how the industry has changed, where it’s going, and, with kids being so computer savvy, we make sure to tell them about some of the new things that are either here now or coming soon, such as digital gauges, home and building monitoring systems, wireless sensors and gauges, and other things that they think are pretty cool,” Thompson said.
He added that he’s encouraged by what seems to be a growing new view of vocational education.
“The HVACR technician’s job has changed, the technology has changed, and people are starting to realize this is an interesting field that isn’t just for kids who couldn’t make it into college, which was the thinking for many years. In fact, there are a number of colleges that are now teaching refrigeration and air conditioning, and the number is growing. They’re decent, good-paying jobs, and they’re starting to get more respect.”
Thompson also shared his thoughts on the following topics:
• Refrigerants: “When I started in this industry, the question was, ‘Do you want the white can or the green one?’ Now, there are dozens of refrigerants to choose from. And, the changes are going to keep coming. There are no more quick fixes. We’re at a place in the universe right now where we have to decide on a permanent solution. Europe has already largely gone to hydrocarbons (HCs), such as propane, and the U.S. is teetering back and forth, but I think it’s ultimately going that way, too. And, the time to start is now. More and more people are seeking out HC training, and I think that’s going to continue.”
• Climate Change: “I do think humans affect the climate to a certain extent. Humans tend to do what they want to do for themselves without thinking about the complete cycle. We solve immediate problems without worrying about the next step. We need to stop that type of thinking and stop leaving problems behind for others to solve. We need to take care of Mother Earth and give it to our children and grandchildren in good shape. In our industry, that means we have to continue to do the right things that we’ve been doing for years, such as reclaiming, recycling, and reusing refrigerants.”
• RSES Membership: “Our membership is getting older and retiring, and we have to bring in the next generation of members. We have to make sure people continue to understand the benefits of membership in societies, such as training, education, certification, timely information, and contributing to an industry voice as well as conversations, networking, bonding, and friendships.”
At the 2015 RSES Conference and HVAC Technology Expo, held Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 in Rosemont, Illinois, the board of directors approved a new business model designed to improve the society’s finances.
Although the details of the model have not been released, “There are a number of things that the executive committee and the finance committee are going to be working on over the next year,” said Nick Reggi, RSES secretary/treasurer. “We’re going to be making changes that we’re hopeful will improve next year’s finances. We’re aggressively addressing the situation in a positive manner.”
The nominating committee recommended the individuals on the board remain in their same positions for 2015-2016 to help ensure a smooth transition to the new business model.
Harlan Krepcik, who will remain international president and interim executive vice president, said RSES is at a crossroads.
“The markets have changed, and RSES needs to change in response to changes in the marketplace, as well,” he said. “This is an organization that’s worth having around.”
Krepcik added that he attended a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on proposed changes to the Clean Air Act Section 608.
“The folks from the EPA are definitely not talking about reducing the amount of involvement they have in the marketplace, I can tell you that,” he said.
Roger M. Hensley, chairman, educational and examining board, said the CEU requirements for renewal of certificate member (CM), certificate member specialist (CMS), and sactive specialist member (SM) membership are coming up with this year’s dues. According to Hensley, members can earn the required hours by attending the society’s webinars, answering the technical questions that are in the RSES Journal each month, and, in some cases, by serving as instructors at trade schools. Members who have retired can maintain their CM, CMS, and SM certifications by signing up to participate in continuing education.
Hensley also said the society is working with the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) to create a three-manual training course for geothermal heat pump installers and service technicians; the Hydrocarbon Refrigerants Guide has been updated and work continues on updating RSES Technical Institute Training Manual 1; progress is being made on the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) manual series, and the NATE core and air conditioning and heat pump preparation manuals have been translated to Spanish; and RSES is looking for ways to broaden the scope of its webinar program to attract nonmembers, which may help grow membership.
Finally, Robert J. Sherman, Riverside, California, received the Member of the Year Award, which is given in recognition of an individual member’s outstanding contributions to RSES and to the HVACR industry in the areas of education, public relations, safety, and society growth. The team from Region 8 and 11 — Gary Reecher, Nicholas R. Cress, Brynn C. Cooksey, and Rich Hoke — won the Battle of the Regions, an HVACR technical trivia competition among the 17 geographic regions of RSES International.
Publication date: 12/21/2015