Proof That Vo-Tech Programs Can Work
Young took heating and air conditioning courses when he was in high school at the Oakland Technical Center-Northwest Campus. Today, this campus has the only hvacr program for high school students in the county. Young is thankful that the opportunity to participate in a trade during his high school years was available. He says that he often thinks about what would have happened or where he would currently be if the hvacr industry had not been introduced to him years ago.
A LIFE-CHANGING OPPORTUNITY“The problem that I see is that counselors at your home school don’t necessarily promote the trades,” said Young. “Not every student is college bound.”
This was true for Young. He explains that during his teenage years he wasn’t sure what he wanted out of his future, but he knew he didn’t want to go down a traditional career path.
Young spoke with his high school counselor about his concerns and said that he enjoyed working with his hands and may be interested in construction.
Fortunately, the counselor took Young’s concerns seriously. He told Young that the school’s construction program was full at the time, but he may want to give the heating and air conditioning program a shot.
“When the counselor suggested this, it all changed,” said Young. He enrolled in the course, and over the next few years he learned about the fundamental aspects of the industry. Young was also given the chance to get out into the field and start laying the foundation for his career. In fact, it was this hands-on training that led Young to where he is today.
In 1982, Young took part in an on-the-job training program. He was invited to work at Nichols Heating & Cooling when it was owned by Thurman Nichols. “I answered phones, went out on jobs, and worked during the summer,” Young said about his early interning. He also says that Nichols put a great amount of trust in him; he considers the former owner to be a great mentor. Young also credits his success to another mentor, Jesse Riojas. Riojas was Young’s high school hvacr instructor, and he is still preparing students for a career in the field. Riojas has also been instrumental in helping The News in its efforts to establish an hvacr program at another Oakland Technical Center campus.
COMING FULL CIRCLEIn 1984, Young had graduated from high school and he started working full time at Nichols Heating & Cooling. After 12 years, Young took over a part of the company. And only three years ago, Young bought the remaining assets of the company from Nichols. The business that Young started at as an apprentice 20 years ago is now his.
Young says that Nichols Heating & Cooling is a $3 million business and covers all of Oakland County.
“A lot of our success is that we don’t say no to business,” Young explains. The contractor says that the company takes on a variety of work, from very small jobs to larger-scale projects.
Young employs approximately 25 individuals, nine of which are former students of Riojas. He says that he does not have some of the same problems that other contractors have as far as finding qualified technicians. Nichols Heating & Cooling is located only a few miles from the Oakland Technical Center-Northwest Campus, and Young takes advantage of recruiting the students that come out of Riojas’ hvacr class.
He gives many of the up-and-coming technicians the same opportunity he was given when he was just starting out.
It’s very difficult for Young to figure out where he might be today had it not been for that high school counselor or the mentors in his life that took a personal interest in him. But there are some things he can say with certainty.
“The one thing I can say is that I do something that I really enjoy,” Young commented. “I agree 100% that there should be more schools in a tighter area to promote hvacr.”
Publication date: 05/13/2002