The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute’s (ARI) Industry Recruitment Task Force has been looking to rejuvenate the hvacr industry by finding ways to recruit more individuals into the field as well as create more qualified workers.

For the last year, the task force has been working to develop an hvacr pilot program in the Milwaukee school district. If events go as planned, the program will start during the 2000-2001 school year.

According to Lev Goldberg of Standard Refrigeration and task force member, the committee is hoping the pilot program will create more opportunity and interest in hvacr for people in high school. Also, the program will allow the hvacr industry to pay better attention to the needs of new individuals who are thinking of entering the field.

More importantly, the pilot program will be a step towards bringing more skilled individuals into a market in need of qualified labor.

“If we don’t act relatively quickly, our declining labor pool will fall beyond a critical point,” Goldberg said. “We have a window of opportunity which we can-not squander.”

Goldberg added that in the next ten years the hvacr industry will need to fill over 200,000 jobs. Meanwhile, enrollment in hvacr vocational technical training has been on a steady decline since the late 1980s.

Right Place, Right Time

Tyrone Dumas, director of technical and trade education for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), was looking to revitalize the trade education component in his schools. Dumas and others at MPS knew that many high school graduates were not going on to traditional universities. These graduates needed other career and education options.

Dumas sent letters to executives at air conditioning manufacturers looking for possible donations of equipment. One of those manufacturing companies was The Trane Company. Tom Mikulina, Trane’s vice president of marketing and an ARI recruitment task force member, and Goldberg were looking for a place to establish a high school pilot program. Mikulina saw the letter and introduced Dumas to ARI and its goals for an industry-supported high school educational pilot program, which would be a template for schools around the country. Dumas jumped at the chance to take part in the program.

“Tyrone was trying to coordinate the equipment donations on his own, unaware of the help that ARI could be,” Mikulina said. “With the Milwaukee Public Schools, we have an eager and enthusiastic partner for the development of a program that will be used as a national template. This way other industry members can help their own school districts create similar programs without reinventing the wheel.”

The program will start in one Milwaukee high school: Custer High School, a four-year high school on Milwaukee’s northwest side. The intent is to expand to other Milwaukee area high schools in the future.

ARI will provide a baseline curriculum as well as equipment donated from member manufacturers. The Milwaukee schools are then responsible for installing the equipment, and providing instructors and lesson plans.

“But,” insists Goldberg, “this is not strictly an ARI program. This is receiving the support of many other industry segments including technicians, contractors, engineers, and wholesalers. Participation from hvacr associations and local companies is crucial for the success of this operation.”

According to Mikulina, the program will initially incorporate lesson plans for grades 9 through 11. These courses will concentrate primarily on gaining fundamental knowledge and skills of residential air conditioning and heating systems. A grade 12 program is scheduled to follow, which will give the students an introduction to commercial refrigeration systems and products.

There are also future plans for program graduates to be able to receive college credits towards continuing hvacr education at the local Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). MATC will also help to play a major role by participating in the development of the curriculum and lesson plans, assisting with educators, and offering students continuing educational and career options.

Currently, the lab is being installed at the high school and is scheduled for completion during the school year.

ARI hopes the pilot program’s success will lead to the development of more high school programs in other cities across the country.

“Our ultimate goal is that we give students the best possible opportunity to learn about and get a hands-on feel for the industry,” Goldberg said.

Publication date: 09/04/2000