For technicians, there are a great many perks that come from having certification. Not only are you established as being top-notch in what you do, but you also gain the confidence and trust of customers, contractors, and others in the industry.

The same holds true for hvacr schools and training programs. If you want your program to not only survive, but thrive, you may want to look into accreditation.

The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has been formed to set an educational standard for hvacr programs.

The Mission of Pahra

Leslie Sandler, director of education for the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI), is the acting director for PAHRA. According to Sandler, PAHRA was validated by representatives from all the major industry organizations. This includes the Air Con-ditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the Gas Appliance Manu-facturers Association (GAMA), the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association (PHCC-NA), the Northamerican Heating, Refrigeration and Aircondition-ing Wholesalers (NHRAW), and, of course, ARI.

In March 2000, the Council of Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Educators (CARE) also gave its support of PAHRA at its annual meeting. Also, in the early drafting stages, PAHRA sent letters to 1,300 training programs across the country seeking comments on the accreditation. So far, approximately 500 comments have been returned.

Sandler points out that there are other accreditation programs specifically for hvacr training facilities, but PAHRA is “the first one that is validated by representatives of the major trade associations.”

The purpose of PAHRA is to use accreditation as a way to improve the quality of education and to establish a standard that is supported and developed by the hvacr industry.

“When you are PAHRA accredited,” Sandler said, “this is what the industry says training programs should aspire to be.”

To be accredited, a school must first fill out a self-evaluation form. This form takes several objectives into account, such as teacher qualifications, student-teacher ratio, and safety issues. The Industry Competency Exam (ICE) must be used at the completion of the program. PAHRA does not require a specific text or curriculum for use in the classroom, but does require that specific topics be covered.

Next, the school must specify if it is applying for all areas of accreditation or one specific category. The categories include residential a/c and heating, light commercial a/c and heating, and commercial refrigeration.

The following step is a visit to the site. The visit is conducted by a PAHRA team leader, as well as team members that are chosen by the training program seeking accreditation. These team members must also be approved by PAHRA. During this two-day inspection, team members and the team leader verify that the information on the self-evaluation is correct.

Before awarding accreditation, team members must tally a score between the self-evaluation and the on-site visit. From the on-site visit, training programs will be scored in 10 different areas. A few of these areas include institutional administration, resource mater-ial, facilities, and instruction. From each of these areas, the training facility must not score below a 65%. If the combined average score of each area is at least 70%, then PAHRA will award accreditation.

This accreditation is then secured for five years, as long as the school keeps up the standards. After five years the school must apply again to make sure that the department is keeping up to date with changes in the industry.

Sandler also points out that although the accreditation process is stringent, PAHRA recognizes that each hvacr department has its own distinct long-term and short-term goals, as well as its own unique program.

So far, more than 100 training facilities and hvacr departments have requested applications for a self-evaluation. PAHRA will soon begin its on-site evaluations, with three of Ohio’s hvacr schools getting the first crack.

Reasons for Accreditation

Linn State Technical College in Linn, MO, has applied for PAHRA accreditation in all three categories and will receive an on-site visit.

Linn State’s hvac department chair, Raymond Peters, says that the program is wrapping up accreditation with HVAC Excel-lence, but would also like to have PAHRA accreditation. Part of the reason Peters would like to have PAHRA accreditation is because it is backed up by so many industry organizations, especially ARI.

“ARI, as far as we are concerned, is who we look for to be accredited in this business,” Peters said. “We seek it from them because it is a name respected in the industry.”

Peters says that the PAHRA accreditation has several benefits, but he emphasizes that one very important benefit is for the hvacr students themselves. He says that students have more appeal in the industry when employers see that they are graduating from a program that is accredited with ARI’s support.

Accreditation is also important to parents who are paying for their children’s tuition in an hvacr program. Peters says that the PAHRA accreditation will let parents know that Linn State is doing everything that is expected of an educational institution.

The accreditation process will also bring students, faculty, and administration together to work towards the goal. Peters says that when the PAHRA team leader comes for the on-site visit, s/he will evaluate all aspects of the curriculum. This means speaking to students and administration, as well as verifying classroom procedures.

Bill Matthews, an hvac instructor at Linn State, points out additional benefits of PAHRA accreditation.

“When you have accreditation, a lot of government funds can be released,” Matthews said.

If a school has proved itself to be up to par with industry standards, more federal money is readily available to help the department live up to higher expectations.

Matthews also says that accreditation is not only important for the future of students, but for the hvacr programs.

“This will compare us with other schools,” Matthews said. “And programs in themselves are going to become more competitive.”

For more information on PAHRA, contact Leslie Sandler at 703-524-8836, ext. 308; 703-528-3816 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 11/06/2000