HVAC manufacturers are in an interesting position when it comes to training and educating the industry’s next generation. While there is no black-and-white solution when it comes to addressing the technician shortage and ensuring there are enough people coming into the industry to satisfy demand, many manufacturers are doing their part by providing training opportunities wherever and whenever possible.
“We want to help give today’s technicians more tools in their toolboxes, and we want to ultimately help attract and train tomorrow’s technicians,” said Todd DeVore, director of technical support services, Emerson.
“There is still work to be done in this area, but we believe that with the technician shortage the industry is facing, it is incumbent upon us to help equip tomorrow’s technicians with the skills they need to make not only themselves but also the industry more successful,” he said.
This is a tall order, but it is one Emerson has willingly embraced, among other manufacturers, such as Rheem Mfg. Co. and Heatcraft Worldwide Refrigeration, who have similarly answered the bell.
WHAT IS OFFERED
The backbone of Rheem’s training department is the Rheem Academy, which also includes the company’s Innovation Learning Centers.
“Rheem Academy grew out of demand from our customers for flexible, continuing education options and now includes hundreds of online training modules,” said Doug Hunt, manager, education and content development, Rheem. “We want Rheem Academy to be a one-stop resource for updated, engaging, professional training taught by industry experts that delivers immediate solutions and helps contractors achieve business growth. To become experts in their field, we are helping our customers take a deeper dive — they are learning not just how our products operate but why. With all of our materials, we are helping customers understand the design and engineering that goes into our products as well as how best to install and service them.”
Heatcraft has gone the route of creating a Certified Contractor program.
The program centers around hands-on technical training on several Heatcraft control systems: The Beacon II™ Refrigeration System, the Quick Response Controller, and the Smart Controller II™.
According to the company, contractors leave the program with knowledge of installation, programming, troubleshooting, operational cycles, and more, including a listing on Heatcraft’s website once certified. The training and certification program is led by Joe Jones, technical training manager, Heatcraft. Jones’s resume includes more than 47 years of experience in the refrigeration industry. In that time, he’s developed training materials for contractors and customers alike, from video tutorials to podcasts.
These programs are clear examples of manufacturers developing programs that are going to ensure the skill sets of contractors and technicians alike are going to continue to grow and evolve as careers progress, which should, in turn, help promote lifelong careers in the skilled trades.
“Emerson’s Educational Services offers not only ‘generic’ HVACR training, but also courses that are specific to Emerson products,” said DeVore. “Because of our broad knowledge base and trainers’ experience in the service industry, Emerson is uniquely positioned to offer a nonbiased assessment on new technology and systems. The ability to provide both nonbiased input and answer very specific product questions is appreciated by the contractors who take our courses.”
The instructor-led classes from Emerson are always done in a group setting. However, the classes do offer time for one-on-one questions and discussions.
“For classes that are more heavily hands-on, we typically limit the number of students allowed in any given class, which ensures more time for individual interaction,” said DeVore. “Additionally, students do reach out to our trainers after the class is over for clarifying questions.”
Rheem offers experience-based training that takes best practices from the industry, its enterprise team, and in-field experts to develop both online and face-to-face training.
“Our classes and course materials help contractors develop improved business skills in addition to product training,” said Hunt. “Our new Innovation Learning Centers offer hands-on training, interactive classrooms, a live demonstration room where equipment can be broken down and reassembled, and virtual reality stations for diagnostic training.”
The program has an array of classes and learning modules that are specific to the growing needs of each distributor and contractor.
“Our tracks of study offer courses for all skill sets to enhance technical proficiency,” said Hunt. “Our learning tracks build upon students’ core technical knowledge to take their expertise to the next level. In addition, we offer sales, marketing, and business skills training programs, which are designed to improve their business management initiatives.”
An important aspect of any training program offered by manufacturers is to keep the curriculum and offerings as up to date as possible. The technologies within the HVAC industry are constantly changing, which means training can quickly become outdated and obsolete if manufacturers aren’t on their toes.
“Throughout the past two to three years, the Rheem training team has focused on updating, modernizing, and transforming the content of our online curriculum,” said Hunt. “The new training websites are user-friendly, constantly updated online training portals that include more than 300 additional training classes, courses, and modules exclusively for our Pro Partner members. Our continued focus with new training is to ensure increased interaction and a variety of training content.”
Emerson has expanded its instructor-led class offerings greatly and developed a distance-learning lineup.
“We have developed system simulators that we take to courses and allow even more hands-on time and advanced troubleshooting,” said DeVore.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
The technician shortage is constantly top of mind for manufacturers, even as they look to the future of their training offerings.
“As an industry leader, it is incumbent upon Emerson to do all that we can to help address this [technician shortage] on all fronts,” said DeVore. “While Emerson strives to use technology and make products that are easier and more enticing for the next generation of technicians to interact with, we also seek to partner with learning institutions to attract people to the trade and show them that they can have a great future in the industry. Beyond that, Emerson Educational Services strives to provide quality training to technicians that will better equip them to solve the air conditioning and refrigeration system challenges they face today and tomorrow. Through meetings and discussions with our industry partners, we believe the four keys to addressing the technician shortage are awareness, recruitment, training, and retention. Through focused efforts in each of these areas, we believe the industry can become stronger and excel during the challenging times ahead.”
“Training is definitely a primary focus at Rheem,” said Hunt. “Our expanded training opportunities allow us to offer to our partners a vast array of training classes and topical learning that meets their needs for time, location, and skills as well as speaks to them in the way in which they learn. We know that everyone learns differently. Many of our customers like to learn via online tutorials while others prefer hands-on, face-to-face interaction. We plan to focus heavily on bringing training programs to our business partners that offer more engagement for students and the skills they can immediately apply to their jobs after they have attended any one of our courses.”
Publication date: 10/9/2017