LIMA, OH — Last summer, the HVACR department at the University of Northwestern Ohio was officially accredited through the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). According to Tom Grothous, instructor for the HVACR department, this milestone is proof positive that his program is doing what it sets out to do and what the industry requires.

Since the program was launched in 1998, Grothous knew that the HVACR department was producing first-rate technicians for the industry. But now, with the addition of PARHA, the University of Northwestern Ohio can say without a doubt that its HVACR program is and has been instrumental in providing its students with the education and training required for the industry.


Grothous said that four years ago, the university brought together several individuals from the area HVACR community and asked them what they needed and how the university could provide it. With the help of contractors, utilities, and union organizations, the university was able to start its heating and air conditioning program.

Currently, the department offers an HVACR technician diploma program, which is 54 weeks long and requires 60 credit hours. The university also offers an associate’s degree in HVACR technology. This route takes 78 weeks to complete and requires 98 credit hours for graduation.

Grothous is one of three instructors responsible for the HVACR department. The other instructors are Matt Goecke and Randy Waller. Grothous said that it is still too early to tell what kind of concrete, positive effects PAHRA will have on the future of the program, but Grothous asserted that the HVACR department has been successful so far, especially where students are concerned.

“Many students come in for a diploma and leave with an associate’s degree,” he said.

He believes that his program offers students what they need in order to move on “to bigger and better things.”

He said that the HVACR program is 70% hands-on and 30% theory. This focus on hands-on training helps to keep the students interested. Grothous maintains that the university is capable of giving students a high degree of individual attention. He stated that the entire university has approximately 3,000 students enrolled and his HVACR courses only allow a maximum of 20 students at a time.

This strategy must be working for the school and for the program. Grothous said that he has seen students leave other programs and schools in the area to attend the HVACR program at the University of Northwestern Ohio.

Grothous believes that the attention and high quality of education provided by the staff of the HVACR department prompts students to further their education and stick around to earn an associate’s degree.


“When PAHRA first came out, we felt that we had the capability of earning the accreditation,” said Grothous.

To become accredited, a training school must first evaluate its own strengths and weaknesses as compared to industry standards and then submit its findings in a self-study report. A survey team then conducts an on-site visit to corroborate the self-study report.

Programs can then be accredited in three areas, Residential Air-Conditioning and Heating, Light Commercial Air-Conditioning and Heating, and Commercial Refrigeration.

Most instructors who are working towards accreditation have found the self-study portion to be one of the more challenging aspects of the process. Grothous said that his program already had most of the documentation it needed due to requirements from administration.

Nonetheless, Grothous said that the accreditation process was still challenging and took a full year to complete.


Grothous believes that PAHRA speaks volumes about an HVACR program.

“The accreditation says to the community that we do what we say we are doing,” he said. “And what we are doing is what the industry wants us to do.”

Representatives from each of the major trade associations validate and endorse PAHRA. They also have input into what they believe all HVACR training programs should be teaching and communicating.

“PAHRA is the benchmark for the industry,” said Grothous.

The instructor emphasized that programs need to be prepared for the PAHRA process, but the results are worth the effort. He said as long as programs are up to safety standards and have the proper documentation, they should be on their way to accreditation.

Publication date: 11/25/2002