ARI director of education Ray Mach (left) and Ferris State University HVACR department chairman Mike Feutz (right) strike a managerial pose in the dugout of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
BIG RAPIDS, Mich. - The plan was simple: invite a group of HVACR instructors and trainers from across the country to a state-of-the-art higher education facility and ask them to spread the good word to their students. The result? A very positive experience.

The plan was put together by the Ferris State University (FSU) HVACR department staff, headed by chairman Mike Feutz. Feutz and his staff invited instructor-members of the Air-Conditioning Refrigeration Institute (ARI) to a first-ever regional ARI Instructor Workshop. More than 40 members, some from as far away as Alaska, California, and Texas, attended the three-day event in late July.

Besides a full slate of educational seminars, attendees were given tours of the two-year-old Granger Center, which houses the HVACR and Construction Technology Management programs. Attendees were also treated to a night out at a West Michigan Whitecaps minor league baseball game, a cookout, go-kart racing, and miniature golf.

ARI director of education, Ray Mach, welcomed the attendees and ARI conference coordinator Kate Martz answered certification questions. North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and Industry Competency Exam (ICE) certification testing was also available during the workshop.

"This is a great way to get together and share ideas and learn new technologies," said Feutz. "Instructors learn about how other people learn - and they learn about new technologies."

Feutz said he asked each instructor to send in his or her best teaching idea and he would assemble the information and make it available to ARI members at a later time. He gave credit to Jill Trinklein, HVACR PR, marketing and distance learning coordinator, and Jannifer Anderson, HVACR department secretary, for assembling the program, which also included take-home items such as a "thumb drive" for people to view a video presentation from the Granger Center and a pair of imprinted safety glasses.

Leaving a good impression was the ultimate goal of the HVACR department. "Whether a person is in the industry or not, they are blown away by this building," Feutz said. "People like the color-coded mechanical systems and some said they have used the same idea in their own training, which reinforces what we do."

Despite the attractiveness of attending FSU and learning at the Granger Center, fall 2005 enrollment is down - and that perplexes Feutz. "Our biggest issue right now is marketing the program and recruiting students," he said.

Viewing the whole HVACR education picture, Feutz added that it is sad that instructors have problems getting donated equipment for their classrooms. Some have had to go out and buy it. "If I were a manufacturer, I'd prefer these kids to be exposed to my equipment rather than a competitor's," he noted.

Overall, Feutz hopes this is the first of many regional workshops hosted at the Granger Center. He believes that a summer workshop is an ideal time for instructors to get away without missing any days of teaching.

"It helps strengthen our relationship with ARI, too," he said.

Publication date: 08/15/2005