Jerry Parker can be added to that list of natural born instructors. In recognition of his talents, The News has chosen Parker as the HVACR Instructor of the Year.
Parker has been teaching at John A. Logan College in southern Illinois for the last two years. In that short amount of time, he has taken the college’s HVACR program beyond expectations. When he took over the program, he not only started producing solid, competent technicians, but he gained the support of local industry, which had been missing from the program for some years.
‘YOU SHOULD BE A TEACHER’Parker has been working in the industry for the past 14 years. He got his start in Marion, IL, as an installer. He then became a maintenance technician, moved on to become a service technician, and even took on some managerial duties. At his previous place of employment, Parker was also in charge of training other technicians. According to Parker, many people seemed to notice his ability for teaching, including homeowners.
Parker began to take those suggestions a little more seriously when he heard that the instructor at John A. Logan College would soon be leaving. At that time, the program did not have a good reputation around Carterville, according to Parker. He explained that many union contractors in the area who had been sending their apprentices to John A. Logan for training were not satisfied with the education technicians were getting from the program. Some contractors started taking their students out of the program, including the union contractors.
In fact, four years ago, the union contractors in the area decided to build their own school to accommodate the educational needs of apprentices.
The reputation of the HVACR program at John A. Logan made it difficult to get new students to enroll and to get help from local industry.
When Parker was finally offered the teaching job at Logan, he was determined to completely turn the program around and make it a benefit to the community.
“I don’t want to be just another school,” said Parker. “I want to be the school.”
STARTING OVERWhen Parker came on board at the college, it was like starting at square one. The lab facility needed major upgrades, student enrollments needed to go up, and the program needed to regain the trust of area contractors.
Almost immediately, Parker began calling manufacturers and local distributors for equipment donations. His second day on the job, Parker called WaterFurnace. It took some time, but after a little patience, the company donated $13,000 worth of equipment for the lab.
More distributors came through with donations, and soon Parker had his lab set up and ready to go.
Parker credits his success in finding equipment by being aggressive and persistent.
And Parker is aggressive in everything he does. When it comes to recruitment, he seems to be everywhere.
The instructor makes it a point to get into the local high schools and speak with prospective students. He has even set up a booth at the state fair and occasionally at the mall to educate young people about careers in the trade.
“Anyplace where I can speak to potential students, I will go,” said Parker.
The instructor’s work has paid off, and enrollment in the HVACR program has gone up. This semester, Parker has approximately 20 students. He has even started night classes in order to accommodate more students.
Parker isn’t just getting students into the classroom, he’s getting them to stay there as well.
“If it weren’t for Jerry, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in the program,” said Josh Huite, a current student.
Huite explains that Parker is always available to help his students. The instructor gives the students his home phone number and cell phone number to call if they ever have questions.
Some of Parker’s students who have internships and are working in the field will give Parker a ring to get some help with troubleshooting a system.
After getting through to the students, Parker had to get through to local industry. It was a slow process, but the instructor now has what he calls a fantastic advisory board. Twelve contractors, both union and non-union, are on the board, along with three wholesalers, a part-time instructor, and a retired instructor, as well as a former student and a current student.
Again, Parker says that he had to be aggressive and persistent to get the support that he now enjoys. He explains that he had to convince local industry that the program was going to get a fresh start and that he was determined to be an asset to local contractors.
As the program started rolling, more and more contractors jumped on board to help out.
There is now an internship program in place through the college. Students have the opportunity to work as an apprentice for a contractor during their third and fourth semesters.
“I work closely with many contractors and we are able to visit jobsites and even help contractors in the field,” says Parker. “I can also send students to the field for job shadowing when they don’t have class.”
Parker says that he doesn’t have enough students to accommodate the needs of all the interested contractors.
NO TIME TO RESTIn two short years, Parker was able to transform the college’s HVACR program, regain the faith of contractors, and fill the seats in his classroom. But that wasn’t all. In June of 2002, the program was accredited through the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). Parker says that he is very proud about the accomplishment because it proves that the program is up to industry standards.
The instructor also became the secretary for the Illinois chapter of the Council of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Educators (ICARE). The group consists of instructors from across the state who gather throughout the year to discuss educational issues.
Parker has also taken part in the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute’s (ARI’s) instructor workshops.
In his spare time, Parker has visited area contractors to speak with technicians and installers about the benefits of the Industry Competency Exam (ICE) and North American Technician Excellence (NATE). Recently, Parker provided training for the ICE exam and John A. Logan College provided the exam for current technicians in the field. Parker is more than qualified to prepare technicians for the exams. He is NATE certified in eight areas and has all three ICE certifications.
With all of these accomplishments over the years, Parker is satisfied, but still hungry for more.
Currently, the instructor is taking HVACR courses at Southern Illinois University in order to get his bachelor’s degree. He is also in the midst of starting a heating and air conditioning club on the campus of John A. Logan. The club would provide activities for students in order to raise money for educational trips.
So when does Parker take a break? He doesn’t, and there is good reason why.
“I enjoy helping people,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me to go out and help people in the field. My hobby is my work.”
Publication date: 09/09/2002