ARLINGTON, VA — Over 135 hvacr instructors from technical institutes and vocational schools across the country gathered at the fifth annual Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute’s (ARI’s) instructor workshop, held here recently.

Since the workshop began five years ago, instructors have been taking advantage of this free opportunity to keep on top of industry changes and to come together and compare notes with other educators.

As one instructor said at the conference, anyone in the hvacr industry is always a student and always learning, especially instructors.

With that in mind, here is a look at the many educational speakers and organizations that came out to keep the industry’s instructors up to date.

Organizational Support

The first day of the workshop started with introductions from ARI president Clifford H. “Ted” Rees and education director Leslie Sandler. Each speaker welcomed the instructors and outlined the progress ARI has made in the last year.

“The things we are doing is because of instructor persistence,” said Rees about the programs that have been put in place by the organization within the last year. This includes helping instructors to use the Industry Competency Exam (ICE) as a course completer for hvacr students and obtaining Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accredita-tion (PAHRA) for hvacr programs.

Representatives from North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and Skills-USA/Voca-tional Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) were present to tell about their progress within the last year and why they are important for students and current technicians.

Rex Boynton, NATE president, spoke at the conference about the increase in NATE support. There are 10 associations that are a part of NATE, with the Northamerican Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Wholesalers Associ-ation (NHRAW) being the most recent organization to join.

Currently, there are 9,809 NATE-certified technicians throughout the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and in seven foreign nations. Also, in 2000, testing income was up 104% and sales of the NATE test were up 99%.

Boynton also talked about the future of NATE and new developments to take place. NATE plans on increasing the presence of the organization by reaching out to consumers. One such way would be to create a website which would list contractors with NATE-certified technicians and where they are located.

Tom Holdsworth, director for Skills-USA, also gave an overview of the vocational club.

“The number one issue is preparation of students for the workplace,” Holdsworth said about the organization.

He also presented the instructors with statistics that stress the need for more individuals in the mechanical fields. By 2006, he noted, 300,000 people will be needed to fill vocational jobs. With the current rate of individuals entering these fields, by that year there will be a shortage of 44,000 workers.

Holdsworth also presented future goals of Skills-USA. For example, the organization is looking into focusing on training for instructors as well as building a connection between industry and instructors.

Building a Better Classroom

There were several educational sessions that were developed to not only keep instructors aware of new technical developments, but also for the instructors to take the subjects back to their classrooms and their students.

York International training manager, Keith Rhea, presented the group with an overview on the manufacturer’s training efforts. York has been active in training by developing a mobile training course and an interactive training CD program.

Rhea also did some training of his own, explaining to the instructors the difference between refrigerants R-22 and R-410A.

Other education sessions included a geothermal heat pump seminar, an update on current ARI research projects from ARI research engineer Mike Blanford, and an overview by ARI public policy director Karim Amrane. Amrane spoke to the group about new ARI standards and EPA standards that are being developed and pending with the government.

But not all the educational discussion at the workshop was technical. Ed Francis, senior editor for Prentice-Hall, was on hand to introduce new tools the company is developing for teachers to use in their classroom. One such tool is a course management system that will allow instructors to use the Internet more easily when setting up curriculum.

The course management system lets instructors develop a course home page for students, which can include the course syllabus, tests, and quizzes. The instructor can also create his or her own page, which can be used to set up a grade book, course roster, and much more.

The instructors were also given tips on how to better organize their classrooms and brush up on their teaching presentations.

Clyde Perry, hvac department head at Gateway Community College in Phoenix, AZ, spoke about effective teaching methods. Perry gave the instructors some tips on how to better engage students and how to structure the way they teach around the way some students learn.

Amana training manager, John Allen, gave a presentation on how to organize the classroom. Allen said it is important to train teachers on how to effectively instruct a class. “Just because we know something doesn’t mean we can teach it,” he said.

He also explained the difficulty in teaching students. “After two days,” he said, “75% of what you told your audience will be forgotten.”

That is why Allen suggests that instructors stick to the most important topics in the classroom and throw out information that students would not need.

Finally, instructors were invited to take the ICE and NATE exams for no charge at the end of the regular session.

Exchanging Ideas

One of the more important reasons so many instructors come out each year for the workshop is the opportunity to discuss issues with other industry leaders as well as other educators.

Several educators shared ideas on many topics, including student retention, recruitment, department funding, and so on.

A great deal of dialogue was created from a panel of speakers who represented area contractors. Warren Lupson of Primary Multicraft, Tim Cropp from Cropp-Metcalfe A/C & Heating, and Richard Dean from Environmental System Associates spoke to the instructors about what they look for when they hire new technicians and the role of the Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ACCA) in training.

Each member of the panel expressed the importance of soft skills for the technicians they hire.

“Soft skills are just as important as technical skills,” said Cropp. “That technician is our storefront and our company in front of the customer.”

Members of the panel asserted that new technicians must be self-motivating and willing to continue learning while they are on the job so they may better understand company procedures. But the panel also discussed the importance of creating connections between association chapters, such as ACCA, and vocational schools and programs.

This issue created a great deal of debate with some instructors doubting the abilities of such associations to be of help. For example, some instructors informed the panel that they have not been able to receive training aids from such chapters because they were not members.

Other instructors spoke out about having to compete with these chapters in keeping students.

Although the issue was deeply debated on both sides, the contractors on the panel said this discussion was important. According to Lupson, who is also the chairman of the local ACCA apprenticeship-training program, the issues and concerns brought up by the instructors will be brought up again within the organization to make necessary changes if possible.

There was also a great deal of discussion on raising the level of the industry and recruiting. The Council of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Educators (CARE) held its meeting along with the ARI event. This gave CARE members another outlet for discussion.