TROY, MI — In early August, the editorial staff ofThe Newsmet with three representatives from the Oakland County School District. The purpose of the meeting was to assess the progress made to date in establishing a new secondary HVACR program in the county.

Mary Kaye Aukee, director of career focused education for the school district, visited The News’ headquarters, along with HVACR instructor Jesse Riojas and John Saltzgaber, public relations consultant for the school district’s construction programs.

The three outlined for The News staff with what they have been doing to push the new program forward. They also outlined what important steps must still be taken, including educating the local HVACR industry and the community about the needs of area contractors.


Aukee and her representatives have been busy for the last six months laying the foundation for a new program. The Oakland Technical Center in Royal Oak, MI, has been designated as its campus. A room has been chosen and still needs to be renovated.

According to Aukee, the Royal Oak campus is an ideal location because there are several industrial and trade companies in the area. The goal would be to raise interest among these businesses.

Aukee said that she and her staff have been busy bolstering the county’s current and only HVACR program led by Riojas. The program is in the process of earning Partnership for Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) which would confirm that the course is in line with industry standards.

Riojas is also aiming to align his course with Lighthouse, a nonprofit organization that renovates and builds homes for individuals in the community. The goal is to work with Lighthouse in order to give Riojas’ students an opportunity to take part in a hands-on approach to learning the trade.

By putting these ideas in place, Aukee says that the new program can mirror the current one. This way, the school district can be assured that the new program will also be following industry guidelines.


Originally,The Newsand Oakland County Schools were aiming for a fall opening of the new HVACR program. However, Aukee says she has been unable to find an instructor. Interviews have taken place, but the school district has not been able to find a candidate with substantial background in HVACR and electrical technology.

Almost two months ago, Oakland County Schools posted the position on its website. The posting has also been published nationally, but still no qualified candidates have come forward.

The News believes this position is perfect for someone who has a great deal of knowledge about the industry, but may be ready to retire from the more physical aspects of the trade. Many instructors have had a lengthy career as contractors and business owners before they enter the educational side of the industry. (For more information on the position, see page 28.)

Aukee says she is willing to work with any individual who may be interested in teaching the new program. One idea Aukee has is to start an instructor part time if their schedule requires it, just to get the program off the ground and create student interest.


Saltzgaber proposed that the school district andThe Newscollaborate to hold a summit exclusively for the local HVACR industry. Saltzgaber believes that by creating a forum for industry, a plan may be developed to inform parents, students, and the rest of the community about the benefits associated with HVACR education. The summit may also stimulate interest in the teaching position for the new program.

Saltzgaber would like to see the HVACR summit lead to something bigger. One idea would be to hold a career fair in conjunction with other local trade industries. This event would give young people and their parents the opportunity to see firsthand what the HVACR profession is all about. It would also help to dispel myths about the industry.

The career fair and summit could spark some media coverage. The News would like to reach the mainstream media to educate the public about the needs of HVACR contractors. More importantly, The News and Oakland County Schools would like to present the community with a clear and honest picture about the job market.

Aukee believes too many young people are pursuing careers with limited job placement. “Our world has changed,” she said. “You have to look at where the jobs are at.”

Aukee says that professions in the trades are a perfect fit for students who are not college bound, but have an aptitude for new technology and for constantly changing mechanical systems.

A theme that seemed to come up again and again was the lack of knowledge many people have about the HVACR industry. This includes parents, school counselors, and students. “They have no awareness of what this industry is about,” said Aukee.

Changing the opinions and attitudes of the community at large will be one of the more challenging tasks during this project. By raising the interest level among parents and those in local industry, we believe we can get the word out to young people about the benefits of a career in HVACR.

Sidebar: HVACR Instructor Wanted ASAP

The campus has been chosen, the schoolroom has been designated, but Oakland County Schools has yet to find an instructor who can provide HVACR and electrical systems training for the construction cluster.

As The News reported two months ago, the school district has published a job posting for the position. Here are the requirements and responsibilities for the new teaching position.

Major responsibilities: Provide training to secondary students and adults in the areas of HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems within the construction cluster; emphasis on quality assurance as well as construction core and foundation skills, simulation, ergonomics, and automation.

Basic qualifications: Valid Michigan Teaching Certificate preferred in vocational/trade/industry-construction. Michigan Vocational Authorization — Trade/Industry. Ability to work with cluster business/industry advisory committees. Experience and/or willingness to work with a student club. Experience and willingness to work through the restructuring process of the Manufacturing Technology Cluster curriculum. Willingness to work in a team teaching environment. Evidence of prior business industry experience. Experience or willingness to learn computerized systems for program operations. Experience and willingness to work in and effectively assist in the management of the cluster. Ability to work with youth through adult-aged students. Outstanding job performance, attendance, and high level of energy and patience.

Employment terms: 10-month work year. Compensation commensurate with experience and training based upon the Oakland Technical Center Education Association Master Agreement Teacher Salary Schedule.

Send resume and letter of interest to:
Mail to: Oakland Schools Human Resources Center
Attention: Shelly Hickman
(Construction Instructor)
2100 Pontiac Lake Rd.
Waterford, MI 48328
248-209-2230; 248-209-2076 (fax)

Interested candidates can also contact Mary Kaye Aukee, director of Career Focused Education for Oakland County Schools. Aukee is willing to work with individuals or take suggestions on how to better establish the new HVACR program. Aukee can be contacted at 248-209-2154, 248-209-2002 (fax), or (e-mail).

Publication date: 08/19/2002