The North Texas Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (NT ACCA) has been awarded the Skills Development Grant. This chapter is the first to receive the grant, which will provide $480,000 towards free training and education for area members.

According to Joe Sutterfield, president of training for the chapter, north Texas needs the grant because of the shortage of technicians in the area.

“I have been in the industry for 22 years,” Sutterfield said. “And it is the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

So how bad is the shortage in North Texas? According to Patrice Pruitt, CAE, executive director of NT ACCA, contractors have been forced to hire technicians who have had no previous hvac education. Pruitt says that contractors are hiring techs “if they can breathe and pass the drug test.”

With this in mind, the chapter had to find a way to provide basic training and recruit new people to the industry. North Lake College suggested the chapter apply for the Skills Development Grant sponsored by the Texas Workforce Commission. To apply, the chapter had to prove the need for technicians and education.

Pruitt said that she sent out surveys to area contractors to find out how many technicians still needed education.

There was a 53% response rate from the survey, and the chapter found that 842 new jobs would eventually need to be filled around the area. Also, 568 individuals said they needed some kind of upgrade training to move to a higher position in their company and 954 individuals responded by saying they needed ongoing training to keep their current position.

It took the chapter over two years to apply for and secure the grant, but the chapter now has free training exclusive to its members.

Courses and goals

New hires can take part in a 144-hr training course, which includes 96 hrs of Principles of Electricity and 48 hrs of Basic Refrigeration.

Courses will also be offered for small business owners, mid-level management and service managers, support staff, and dispatchers. These courses will cover everything from communication and leadership skills, to practical office and computer skills.

Courses are held at North Lake College and the NT ACCA office.

To receive the full amount of money, the chapter must reach certain goals in its training.

Under the grant, 500 people must be trained. Of this number, 300 must be in hvacr technical training and 200 must be in business skills training. Also, of the 500 students, 200 must be new hires.

Finally, 85% of the individuals registered must complete the course. If all the criteria are met, the chapter will receive the full grant and be eligible to apply for it again. Chapter members are hoping this free training will become a year-round event.

Contractors respond

According to Pruitt, at last count, 300 people from 35 member organizations are already committed to classes. The office support courses started this month, and the rest of the courses are set to start in late August and early September.

ACCA members are not worried about fulfilling their course goals. In fact, “I would anticipate more people will need training than we have money for,” Pruitt said.

So far, members seem to be taking advantage of this opportunity. Sutterfield, who also works for Environmental Techniques, is sending 13 of his workers through the training.

Even Elvis Johnson, chapter president, is sending six of his employees from Mechanical Services to the training. Johnson has also hired individuals who have had no previous hvac education, but are willing to learn as they work in the field.

“We are looking for people with a good work ethic, good attitude, and trainable,” Johnson said.

Finally, Mike Stevens, contractor for S&S Air Conditioning is also very excited about the training. Stevens is sending six of his employees to take the course.

Stevens said that not only is he sending his employees through the training, but he will also take part. Even though he has experience and previous education, Stevens said that he wants to further his technical education and expand his employee and customer relations expertise.

Publication date: 08/21/2000