Joe Carone got his start in the HVAC industry like many others — he had a family member in the trade.

“My godfather was vice president of a mechanical contracting company and asked me if I was interested in getting into the trade right after high school,” Carone said. “I worked in the industry for about 26 years before becoming a full-time instructor.”

Carone, now an instructor for the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 265, in Carol Stream, Illinois, was chosen as The NEWS’ 2017 Best Instructor.

Ironically, Carone’s apprenticeship teacher was the one who motivated him to consider teaching full time.

“There was an opening to teach night classes, and I thought it would be interesting,” he said. “I enjoy speaking and sharing my knowledge with other people. I’ve had individuals during my career who have taken me under their wings and shown me how to do things and how to do things correctly. I believe in what comes around, goes around, and so I figured it would be nice to give back to the students.”

Carone said he has stuck with teaching for this long because he loves sharing knowledge with his students.

“Explaining information to them, seeing their eyes open up when they understand the material, and seeing them light up when they actually solve the problem for themselves is very rewarding.”


Dennis Moran, director of training for SMART Local 265, has known Carone for more than 10 years, since they were both instructors.

“When I took over as director of training about five years ago, I brought him on full time,” Moran said. “He’s just excellent. I’ve met people who are very smart but don’t know how to give you their knowledge. He communicates well. Joe is very smart and knows how to pass on the knowledge he has. That man is like me, he lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps heating and air conditioning. He loves this field. All of our instructors love what they do for a living. And Joe just really knows how to give the students the training they need.”

Carone takes the time to ensure each student understands what he is saying, Moran noted.

“In other words, no student left behind,” he said. “If he sees somebody struggling, he might ask them to stay late. All of his students have his personal cell number, so when they’re out in the field, and they have a question or run into a technical problem, they know they can call him, and he usually answers right away, which is just unbelievable. It really gives the students some security knowing they have somebody to fall back on to get their questions answered.”

Nathaniel Molina, service apprentice, SMART Local 265, has taken several of Carone’s classes.

“He’s very informative,” Molina said. “If you have a question that may be a bit off topic but is still somewhat pertinent, and he doesn’t know the answer off the top of his head, he will look it up for you and get you the correct answer.”

According to Molina, Carone discusses real-world situations in the classroom.

“He goes over the material, and then we go into the labs for hands-on experience on what he’s teaching about,” he said. “He wants to make sure you understand the information. He’s not afraid of going back to cover material again just to make sure you really get it. Joe also gives you real-world situations that happen in the field when other instructors may just tell you theory and go directly by the book. He’s got some field experience, so he knows how things actually are versus how things are theorized. He also gives all students his cellphone number. If we have any questions, he welcomes us to call. He’ll get us the information and help us out. He’s just a stand-up guy. Not many people give out their personal cellphone numbers to help people. He’s willing to go above and beyond to help his students.”


While Smart Local 265 has had luck with pretty steady school sign ups, reps started attending local high school career fairs a few years ago to spark interest in the trades. Carone frequently attends these events to give presentations demonstrating what the HVAC field is all about.

“We’ve had very good feedback on those events,” he said. “I tell high school students that college may not be the right path for everybody and that going into a trade is a very rewarding career. Just because you’re in a trade does not mean you can’t get a college degree on top of it.”

In this case, Carone actually practices what he preaches, as the 49 year old is actively pursuing his own bachelor’s degree in operations management by attending night courses at DePaul University in downtown Chicago.

“I like to take classes that benefit me and my students, so I can bring some of the business aspects of the career to the apprentices,” he said. “My goal is to continue teaching and to continue working on my own degree, so I can continue to help my students succeed.”

Publication date: 9/18/2017

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