In recent years, the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) has accomplished several educational milestones. Whether it’s the ARI curriculum guide, the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), or the widely popular Instructor Workshops, training is a major goal of the organization. But educating the industry is nothing new for ARI. In fact, training and education has been a continuous endeavor for the organization.

In the last 50 years, ARI has had the same mission of providing education to the HVACR industry and recruiting new technicians. And, as the years have passed, the Institute’s educational offerings have continued to expand and improve.

Working away — Students from Meade County ATC eagerly work on a time capsule for ARI’s 50th anniversary. ARI will collect items to place in the capsule during 2003. These items could include industry videos, CDs, standards, and a picture of the capsule’s creators. For their efforts, Meade County ATC was awarded a $1,000 check from ARI for the construction and shipping of the completed capsule.

Educational Roots

The organization wasn’t even known as ARI when it first began its educational mission. Prior to 1953, the organization was called the Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers Association (REMA), and the association teamed up with the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) to hold its first educational conference in San Francisco, CA, during the spring of 1948.

According to an early REMA bulletin, the conference was “definitely not a trade show or selling show. [The] committee made certain that every exhibit was strictly educational in nature and absolutely no commercial displays were permitted.”

Companies set up booths at the conference to educate visitors on how to properly install equipment, but company names were not permitted in the booth space.

The bulletin also said that attendance for the first conference was not as great as anticipated, but “every serviceman attending the conference spent considerable time in the exhibition halls and very seriously examined the cross-section and working models in detail, asking very intelligent questions pertaining to installation and service.”

REMA must have felt that its first educational conference was enough of a success to schedule similar conference across the country. The conferences continued even when REMA merged with ACRMA in 1953 and became ARI.

Attendance numbers continually went up for ARI’s educational conferences. In April 1954, the association boasted that 1,500 individuals attended the conference held in Long Beach, CA, during the month of March. Throughout the 1950s, ARI continued to hold educational conferences in various cities.

Filling A Need

In 1956, ARI addressed a nationwide marketing study of residential air conditioning created by market researchers. According to the survey, there was a market for more than a quarter of a million central air conditioning systems. The researchers claimed that an even larger market “could be developed by more aggressive selling and educational programs.” Those conducting the study also pointed out that 93% of the homeowners interviewed for the survey said that they had never been contacted by an air conditioning salesman about installing a system. Another 64% of non-owners said they had no idea about the installation or operating costs of a central cooling system.

The survey suggested that by educating HVACR service technicians and salespeople about the growing market, companies could begin to sell and install more systems.

By 1957, ARI had set up an Educational Task Committee. The committee was set up by the board of directors as a result of a recommendation by the Temperature Controls Section that “ARI sponsor a trade educational program primarily compiled for the dealer, installer, and service man…This would also be a good source of information for educational institutions and trade schools. In addition, it would be of benefit to manufacturers’ engineers and salesmen.”

S.C. Marshal of Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co. served as chairman of the educational committee.

In the next year, ARI issued a booklet called, “Your Future in the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Industry.” The booklet was distributed to trade schools and vocational guidance instructors in public schools. The goal was to point out the need for trained people in the future of the industry.

This was also the goal of another committee formed by the Unitary Air-Conditioning Section of ARI. The committee was put together to study possible approaches to finding technically qualified field personnel.

A.E. Melling, manager technical services for the Unitary Equipment Division, was named head of the industry committee.

“We need people,” said Melling. “If we could get the men to install and service the equipment we could double our volume. We need a training program. The training material is available from many of the manufacturers already in ARI. Our job is to work with educational authorities to develop a program and put it in the hands of vocational schools and teachers around the country. This will make it practical for distributors and dealers of member companies to promote such programs in the localities where they are needed. This will be the goal of the committee’s activity.”

Starting With One School

To reach the goals of the Industry Committee, ARI began to consider the sponsorship of a training program through public schools. In the fall of 1961, ARI started to take small steps towards establishing a pilot training program at a public school in Syracuse, NY. The courses in Syracuse would include daytime classes for regularly enrolled high schools students and a program for adults who would use the facility for night classes.

According to a 1961 edition of Koldfax, numerous public school officials requested information from ARI about establishing an air conditioning and refrigeration course in their schools.

As the Syracuse pilot program started to take off, ARI looked to fulfill the needs of several other schools across the country. The association approved plans by the winter of 1961 to establish more training programs during the 1961-62 school year.

It was the job of the training committee to begin putting together textbooks, the curriculum, and other preliminaries, such as lab equipment. Melling, who was heading up the activity at the Syracuse program and the programs in development, said that the programs also needed publicity and promotion to be successful. Plans were developed to encourage guidance counselors to tell students about the programs and its benefits.

By October 1962, the ARI-sponsored training programs garnered a great deal of interest. Part of this came from the hiring of a training director, Charles J. McKeone. McKeone communicated with several school systems in various cities. By October, a dozen cities had either started establishing ARI training programs or would begin very shortly. Cities involved included Charlotte, NC, Dallas, TX, and Flint, MI.

Each new program ran along the same lines as the Syracuse pilot program. A course for high school students was conducted during the day, and a night program was established for those already employed as contractors, dealers, and technicians.

By 1963, the training committee recommended that students who graduate from the ARI training program should receive some kind of recognition. The association wanted to issue a diploma or other certificate to those completing the coursework. At the same time, ARI was establishing ways for the schools and their local advisory committees to report on the progress of the programs.

By March of the same year, ARI-sponsored courses seemed to be everywhere. Several cities in 21 U.S. states and in Canada had a program, and 17 more programs were expected to open for the 1964-1965 school year. It was reported by ARI that in just a year and a half since launching the pilot program, over 40 public schools had adopted an ARI course.

The success of the ARI training program gained support and acknowledgment from the U.S. Office of Education in late April of 1965. The program was singled out as an example of how cooperative programs could be motivated, organized, and carried out.

Strengthening Training

With the establishment of several ARI-sponsored training programs, the association set its sights on taking current programs and making them even stronger. In March of 1966, the ARI Training Committee had undergone a name change. The group became known as the Manpower-Development Committee, and its job was to determine the current needs of the industry, which included training and recruitment efforts.

One of the first missions of the Manpower-Development Committee was to gather information from all segments of the industry to find out what their future needs would be. The compiled information would then guide the efforts of the committee to fulfill these needs.

One of the earliest successes of the Manpower-Development Committee was the creation of an instructors’ guide to assist in vocational courses.

ARI was awarded a grant of $15,000 in July 1966 from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to prepare the guide. In applying for the grant, the Manpower-Development Committee illustrated the industry’s lack of qualified instructors. The guide, according to ARI, would help ensure uniformity in HVACR courses.

The instructors’ guide was approved for publication in the summer of 1968 by the U.S. Office of Education. ARI announced that it would begin printing the guide and that it would be ready in the beginning of the new school year.

As the instructors’ guide was going to print, ARI was already planning its next educational endeavor. The association was already preparing to sponsor the creation of two textbooks on the fundamentals of air conditioning and refrigeration for secondary and post-secondary schools. The two-volume publication would be arranged through a partnership with ARI and Prentice-Hall.

Major subject areas covered in the textbooks included basic refrigeration, basic electricity, commercial refrigeration, year-round air-conditioning, humidification, controls, and customer relations. Joe B. Olivieri, consulting engineer and technical writer, was chosen to author the books. The first edition of the book, simply called Fundamentals of Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning, was published in 1979. The second edition followed in 1987.

Standards For The Industry

The past two decades for ARI were really about setting educational standards. Over the 20-year span, ARI initiated an industry exam for entry-level technicians, as well as an accreditation for HVACR programs at both the secondary and post-secondary level.

The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI)-Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) competency exam was instituted in 1987. It was one of the first competency exams designed for entry-level HVACR programs.

The exam was broken up into three parts: Residential Air-Conditioning and Heating, Light Commercial Air-Conditioning and Heating, and Commercial Refrigeration.

In the first year of the exam’s introduction, 800 individuals took part in testing. Over time, more of those in the industry began to support the ARI/GAMA competency exam. It was decided that the certification should be called the Industry Competency Exam (ICE). More than 40,000 people have earned ICE certification since 1987, and over 300 schools now require it for graduation. SkillsUSA-Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) uses the certification as part of its national competitions.

ARI has had a close involvement with SkillsUSA-VICA since the 1970s. Several technical committee members have served on the VICA board. Skills-USA has always been an important tool in creating and recruiting qualified technicians. This is something that ARI has recognized as an important issue, and it shows through some of the Institute’s projects throughout the 1990s.

In 1995, ARI published the second edition of its “Instructor Curriculum Guide.” Two years later, the organization hosted its first Instructor Workshop. The workshops are held each year in Arlington, VA, and bring a variety of industry educators together to discuss training issues, challenges, and developments. The event provides instructors with a way to network and share ideas on how to bolster their own classrooms. Each year, the workshops have attracted more and more instructors. The most recent Instructor Workshop, held in March of 2002, was attended by more than 150 educators.

The Instructor Workshops also allow ARI to provide information on PAHRA, which was officially launched in 2000. The accreditation program was started with the goal of standardizing secondary and post-secondary HVACR programs. Much like ICE, PAHRA is broken up into three separate areas. Programs can be accredited in Residential Air-Conditioning and Heating, Commercial Air-Conditioning and Heating, and Commercial Refrigeration.

Currently, six HVACR programs have become PAHRA accredited, and several more are waiting to be evaluated for the accreditation.

PAHRA and ICE are two of the three tools that ARI believes will help to raise the bar for the industry and develop more qualified and competent techs. The third part of the equation is North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE was introduced in 1997, and ARI has been a supporter from the beginning. The association believes that ICE is the perfect certification for entry-level technicians and for students completing an HVACR program. NATE, on the other hand, is the perfect certification for the tech that is out of school and has had a few years of experience in the field. It now boasts over 12,000 certified technicians who are recognized by their peers and customers.

Answering The Call

During the 1990’s, polls byThe Newsrevealed that the number one problem confronting contractors was the shortage of skilled workers.

In response, ARI joined with 12 industry organizations to create the Career Education Coalition. Kits offering videos and recruitment brochures were sent to 1,300 HVACR training schools and hundreds of contractors. The CEC Web site at now garners 30,000 page views monthly, thanks in part to an advertisement in USA Today.

“We are using all industry resources to attract the best and the brightest to careers in our industry,” said ARI Educational Coalition Chairman, Scott Boxer. “Working together we are making progress, but this will require a long, sustained industry wide effort.”

A key element in the effort, according to ARI, is the NATE program.

Inspiring Others

One of ARI’s most recent accomplishments echoes the success and goals of the organization over 30 years ago.

In 2000, ARI teamed up with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to develop an HVACR program at Custer High School. According to ARI, MPS recognized the need for educational opportunities for students who are not bound for a traditional four-year college. The school board also knew that an HVACR program for high school students could help to fill jobs in the local industry.

ARI’s educational task forced decided to use Custer High School as a pilot program. The goal was to set up a program at Custer and learn from the process. The lessons learned from Custer would help set the standard for establishing other HVACR programs in high schools across the country.

So far, Custer’s program has been a success. The high school has formed a partnership with the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) to provide students with further educational opportunities after high school. ARI also provided the equipment for the program’s lab.

In 2001, ARI published “Establishing an HVACR Program In Your School: A How-To Guide.” The guide has been distributed to those looking to duplicate the success of the MPS Project.

The project has inspired others, including The News, to follow in ARI’s footsteps.

Last year, The News announced that it would help in the development of an HVACR program in Oakland County, MI. Work is underway to establish the program, and there is no doubt that ARI will play a significant role in the direction of the program.

Publication date: 11/11/2002