HARTFORD, Conn. - You don't have to be an "S.O.B." to want to enter the oil heating business. At least that's the opinion of Bob Hedden of Oil Heat Associates, Wantagh, N.Y. Hedden was addressing instructors at the 53rd Annual National Association of Oil Heating Service Managers (NAOHSM) Convention & Trade Show.

In his example, S.O.B. referred to "son of the boss." He joked about how he was one of the types who couldn't get a job so he went to work in the family business. He eventually switched careers and developed training programs for oil heat technicians. He is presently in charge of education and training for the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA).

"Our job as trainers is to help people make the transition into teaching people what they don't know," Hedden said. "We are helping turn parts changers into service technicians."

He said the problem with training new techs is a lot of them learn the job in real time - making mistakes in front of customers and putting a burden on their companies. He also acknowledged that "kids coming up in the business don't want to get dirty. People believe that oil heat is dirty and we have to change that perception."

One instructor in the audience said that new people in the trade need to be told that the job is dirty. He said that given a choice, young people would rather have an active social life than to go out on a midnight service call where they know they will get dirty and tired. He recommended that the oil heat business try and attract more mature workers from other fields, who appreciate having a job and will want to learn and grow with a company - despite the dirty nature of some of the work.

Hedden added that young people often envision their careers as glamorous and with a large income. "They can't all be pit crew members for a NASCAR racing team," he said. "We need to tell them that very few are capable of getting a job like that."

Instead, Hedden recommended some ways to get people interested in an oil heat career.

1. It's a great industry to work in - lots of great people.

2. You are not stuck in an office all day long - the job is seldom boring.

3. No overnight travel.

4. Stable and secure - fairly recession proof.

5. Good pay and benefits.

6. Usually no one looking over your shoulder, second guessing you.

7. Kind of a self-employed job.

8. The ability to be a problem solver.

9. Having your own truck, saving money from purchasing and maintaining a vehicle.

10. Feeling of self-esteem, helping someone in trouble even if it is "only" providing heat.

"You can make a small, yet significant difference in someone's life," he said.

Hedden also talked about the different levels of training available through NORA. He told instructors their students can qualify for NORA certification if they use NORA textbooks, have hands-on training available, have an approved curriculum, and take the NORA exam at the end of the course. "There are a lot of people who are underemployed right now, working crappy jobs," Hedden said. "Those are the people we need to talk to."

For more information on NORA training, visit www.noraoilheat.org.

Publication date: 05/29/2006