Employee Moves from Field Technician to Prison Professor
Making the best of a bad situation
Being in the HVAC service business for over 40 years has resulted in an abundance of memories and peaks and valleys for me. Looking back, the people that you journey with through those years are often what you treasure the most. Some walk beside you through thick or thin. Others mature into exceptional people. Some struggle just to succeed, and others are gifted and continue to surprise you and make you proud.
Lloyd was a little bit of everything. He joined our company after high school. He was gifted with his hands and had one of the sharpest technical minds we’ve have ever employed. He was with us for almost 30 years, and during the last 20-plus years, he was our “go-to guy” for our most challenging jobs. Lloyd stayed in the field because he had too many side hobbies and didn’t want to put in the extra hours required for a management position. Sadly, he also made some bad decisions in the last couple of years working with us and ended up in prison.
That’s often where the story ends — great potential ends in big disappointment. Lloyd is a high-energy, always-working (or doing something) kind of guy. Prison can be the worst place for that type of personality, as things go frustratingly slow with lots of red tape and bureaucracy. Fortunately, Lloyd was able to get into the maintenance department and quickly became the main HVAC “employee.” Lloyd loved to work and had no lack of work maintaining, servicing, and upgrading hundreds of units at the low-security federal correctional institute where he is serving his sentence. He started training a few guys to help him and then got the idea of creating a series of classes to get industry-recognized “Employment Ready” credentials for fellow inmates.
It took over two years to put all the pieces together, since cell phones and computer usage are a no-no in prison. The prison security drastically slows down the process of teacher certification, getting training material, books, and DVDs, all of which have to be preapproved and inspected. Copies of The ACHR NEWS, plus several other trade magazines, were vital in keeping Lloyd up to date on the ever-changing HVAC industry and its regulations.
Lloyd persevered and developed a training program with student assessment testing through Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan. He currently has over 150 graduates who have earned HVAC Excellence Certifications in one or more of the following disciplines: electrical theory and application, basic refrigeration and charging procedures, air conditioning, heat pumps, and gas heating.
In addition, most of his students also obtained an EPA Section 608 certification to handle refrigerants. It’s difficult to get a job after serving time, but several students had jobs before they even left prison. Many more earned employment when their sentence was finalized. The exact number is hard to verify, as communication between current and past inmates is prohibited.
This is just another example for all of us to never give up on someone — even when they make mistakes, disappoint us, and even give up on themselves. Life is a continual challenge for all of us to constantly think outside the box, especially in the most challenging situations.
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