At Lansing Community College, HVAC faculty lead Matt Dunham hears from employers looking to hire HVAC professionals at least once a week. This week, one of those inquiries came from a familiar face. A former student who joined the program after leaving the manufacturing industry contacted Dunham with a job opportunity to post. The student left Lansing Community College around 2014.

“It’s full circle with this student. He came here looking for the opportunity and got the education,” says Dunham, who began teaching at the college in 2009.

“Now he’s in a position to bring more people to his company and provide that opportunity to somebody else.” Learning HVAC At Lansing Community College Lansing Community College is an open entry institution where anybody can become a student, Dunham says. A reading, writing and math placement test is needed to enroll in HVAC classes at the school, and he says the barrier is kept low so that non-traditional students can succeed. “Most of our students are very hands-on learners, so we try to have as low a barrier as possible to get into the program — and then we can hit the ground running.”

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The program is designed for working individuals, with all courses offered in the evening. The degrees and certificates of achievement offered include: Building Maintenance, CA; Energy Auditor, CC; Energy Management Specialist, AAS; Heat & Air Conditioning, AAS; Heat & Air Conditioning, CA; and HVAC/R - Energy Management Engineering Technology, AAS. HVAC students can obtain a certificate of achievement, which Dunham says takes three semesters for a full-time student. Lansing Community College offers an associate’s degree in HVAC, and for students who want to continue their education, the college works with Ferris State University. Lansing Community College graduates can transfer to Ferris as a junior and study for a rarely offered bachelor’s degree in HVAC, Dunham says.

HVAC Education During A Pandemic Lansing Community College’s HVAC classes — and the college’s other trade classes — are physically located at the college’s West Campus. In August, Dunham started the semester that’s now underway with a hybrid format, completing lessons, assignments, quizzes and tests online that could be done virtually. The HVAC program used its typical classroom and lab time entirely for lab work this semester, he says.

The HVAC students were able to complete face-to-face lab instruction the week before new state public health orders tied to the coronavirus pandemic came into effect Nov. 18. “The goal was to get as much lab time done this semester as fast as we could,” Dunham says.

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Michigan HVAC Professionals In Demand While late spring and early summer are typically when hiring surges in the industry, the demand remains intact as winter approaches this year, Dunham says.

In mid-October, Dunham says he got a call from a friend whose furnace was out — and who couldn’t find an HVAC professional to come look at it until the first week in November.

“There’s such a demand in HVAC right now that we’re seeing continued demand through the fall,” Dunham says.

The Lansing Community College program has between 100 and 130 students. That number surges during recessions, Dunham says, and grew to about 300 students between 2008 and 2012. Dunham says he averaged 45 to 50 hours a week of work throughout the Great Recession. “It doesn’t go away,” he says of the HVAC field. “It can’t be outsourced.”

Photos courtesy of HVAC Excellence.