TROY, MI — As reported last month,The Newsstaff met with three representatives from Oakland County Schools to develop a plan of attack for establishing a new HVACR program at the Southeast Oakland Technical Center in Royal Oak, MI. The idea for the project was announced over nine months ago, but progress has been slow. Within the last month, however, the new program has gained a great deal of momentum.

Recently, the technical center hired an instructor for the future program. Also, The News and Oakland County Schools have scheduled a meeting for local members of the industry. The goal will be to bring contractors and other industry representatives from the metro Detroit area to meet with members of the staff of Oakland County Schools and The News to discuss how all can work together to perfect the new HVACR program and recruit and retain new students and technicians.


Oakland County Schools recently hired Rob Featherstone as a new instructor for the construction department. Featherstone will begin his new job at the southeast campus on Oct. 1, where he will teach electrical and plumbing courses. When the new HVACR program is launched, Featherstone will take over as the program’s instructor.

Featherstone has 18 years of experience in the industry and comes from Oakland Community College (OCC), where he taught HVACR for the past 16 years.

Teaching was something Featherstone came into almost by accident. According to the instructor, early in his career, he helped the HVACR department at OCC by preparing class lectures or providing the hands-on portion of the curriculum. Featherstone says that the process of teaching was something he found he really enjoyed to do.

“Seeing [the students] learn and increase their knowledge is great,” he said.

Featherstone said that he saw the job posting for Oakland County School’s new program, but couldn’t make up his mind whether to apply. After continually seeing the job posting, he decided to get more information from Jesse Riojas, the HVACR instructor at the Oakland Technical Center in Clarkston, MI.

Featherstone interviewed for the position and was offered the job due in part to his broad range of knowledge in construction trades. He explains that taking the new position would give him the chance to head up a program on his own, and it would provide him with a new challenge.


The Newsand Oakland County Schools have scheduled an industry summit for Oct. 14, 2002. Invitations have been sent out to numerous contractors, wholesalers, and dealers in and around Oakland County, MI.

The goals of the meeting include providing contractors with an update on the progress of the new HVACR program and enlisting those in the industry to help in the development of the program.

The summit will take place at the Southeast Oakland Technical Center, which is the intended site for the new program. Industry representatives have been invited to stop by the school starting at 5:30 p.m., where they can take the time to meet others in the industry, as well as staff from The News and members of Oakland County Schools.

News Editor-in-Chief Mark Skaer will then present an outline of how the program is developing and explain what local companies can do to help.

Next, Mary Kaye Aukee, director of Career Focused Education (CFE) for the school system, will discuss CFE and the vocational offerings through the school.

Attendees of the event will then be asked to break up into discussion groups. Each group will examine questions pertaining to industry issues. The goal will be to find answers to such topics as student recruitment and technician retention.

More specifically, The News would like to know the following:

  • How do we expose younger people to a career in the HVACR industry?

  • How do we get the attention of the community, including parents, guidance counselors, and teachers?

  • How do we work together to get students into the program and on their way to a career path in the field?

    At the end of the group sessions, all attendees will then discuss their findings, which The News hopes will lead to a successful plan of action in finalizing the new HVACR program. Industry representatives who desire to participate will then explore ways that they can help bolster the program.

    For more information on the program or the industry summit, contact James J. Siegel, 248-244-1732; (e-mail).

    Publication date: 09/23/2002