DALLAS, TX — While walking the aisles, contractors and technicians had the chance to learn more about training opportunities. Located among the booths touting new products were a few booths touting the need for increased education.

For instance, The Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Condition-ing Institute of Canada (HRAI) was busy in booth 1023. It now offers most of its training courses in Canada, but lately, has begun branching down into the U.S.

In Minnesota, HRAI is working to educate contractors about the energy codes and how to deal with the mechanical ventilation needed in homes, according to president Warren Heeley. The association is currently speaking with the people in the energy industry in neighboring Wisconsin about the possibility of offering similar training there.

An increasingly popular course offering is combo system training, said Heeley. This system combines a water heater with a blower coil and is a rapidly growing preference in new housing. Pilot courses are being offered in Oregon.

When asked why some contractors are hesitant to train their employees, Heeley had plenty to say.

“Contractors are faced with lots of questions and concerns regarding training,” was his first response.

According to Heeley, some of those questions and concerns are budget issues, how much time employees will be off the job for training, and knowing what training is best with all of the types available.

There is also a perception of cost attached to training, leaving contractors to determine if the return will be worth the cost.

“Small businesses are concerned that techs will leave after being trained,” he said. “But, if you don’ t train him, what if he stays?”

HRAI knows and understands the barriers to training and puts a lot of stock in program quality, getting feedback and implementing changes to stay on track.

“We try to offer training that is tied in with codes and certification, and is directly applicable to daily work,” said Heeley.

Training can be expensive

“Our own mindset is the largest obstacle [to training],” said Mike Feutz, program coordinator for the hvacr programs at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI.

Ferris State offers a two-year Associate in Applied Science degree for technicians and a four-year Bachelor of Science degree for application engineers. The university is currently working to put the four-year degree online.

“The faculty is convinced that we need to do this to stay current,” said Feutz.

The four-year degree involves applied engineering, and the design work is computer-based. If students had the proper software at home, they could easily complete the course in an online setting, said Feutz.

“Training is expensive and we’re blessed that the industry supports it,” he said. “However, there is a large sociological obstacle to becoming a technician in the hvacr industry. Society doesn’t look at blue collar workers in a good light and this keeps people from entering our industry.”

The industry is very diverse and there are lots of opportunities, said Feutz. He and others at Ferris State believe that training makes people employable and education makes people promotable.

“This is a very rewarding industry,” he said.

Other training offerings

The Air Movement and Control Association International (AMCA) offers application guides for several aspects of air movement within an hvacr system.

The “Fan Application Manual” is divided into four sections: Air systems; fans and systems; troubleshooting; and field performance measurement of fan systems. Application guides on dampers; air louvers; fire ceiling and smoke dampers; and sound power level ratings for fans are also available.

AMCA also offers its standards, video and slide programs, and information about its certification programs.

Many of the manufacturers in the industry offer training to customers. One such company is Nordyne, offering a number of seminars and selected courses of study throughout the year.

The company’s technical seminars include gas furnace training, residential air conditioning, and heat pump training. Typically, a Nordyne distributor makes these courses available to contractor and dealer customers by arranging the programs at convenient locations in their trade areas.

“The seminars offered by Nordyne may be approved for continuing education credits to satisfy requirements of particular state licensing boards,” said Jim Burns, the company’s director of residential sales.

Contractors should contact their local distributors to find out about any training opportunities available to them through their dealers.

Students and technicians who have passed the Industry Com-petency Exams (ICE) will have shoulder patches heralding their accomplishments, according to the Air-Conditioning and Refrigera-tion Institute (ARI).

ICE are offered at vocational-technical training schools across the nation as a measurement of industry-agreed standards of basic competency.

The exams have broad industry support through the Refrigeration Service Engineering Society (RSES), Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Plumbing, Heating Cooling Contractors (PHCC), North American Heating, Refrigeration, Air-Conditioning Wholesalers (NHRAW), and ARI.

To date, more than 20,000 students and technicians have demonstrated their entry-level knowledge by passing the three ICE tests.

Unveiled in November, the shoulder emblems consist of a main patch highlighting ICE with the logos of the five supporting organizations. Below this main patch, a smaller “rocker” that identifies the specific test passed can be added. There are three rocker patches that correlate to the tests: Residential Air Conditioning and Heating; Light Commercial Air Conditioning and Heating; and Commercial Refrig-eration. A fourth rocker patch is available to denote an instructor status.

“These patches help distinguish those who have achieved the basic skills and are ready to progress to more advanced technical levels,” said Leslie Sandler, ARI manager of education.

Those who have successfully completed one or more of the ICE tests may purchase the patches and rockers by sending proof of passing the exam, $5 for the main patch, and $2 for each rocker to the ARI Education Department, 4310 North Fairfax Drive, Suite #425, Arlington, VA 22203.