“They just don’t teach ’em right.” “They know nothin’ when they come out.” “I have to teach them all over again.” “I hire for attitude. I can teach the skills stuff.”

Contractors definitely have an opinion when it comes to HVACR education. You’ll get the above comments and replies - plus a whole lot more - if you ask them what they think of HVACR students coming out of HVACR educational facilities, schools, and universities. If ever a scientific poll or marketing survey is arranged, here’s betting that the educational system would not get a passing grade from contractors.

It is easy to say that today’s schools are not churning out quality product. I’d venture to say that, somewhere along the line, many of you have hired a graduate from a local trade school and the end result was not good. Many of you don’t even bother looking anymore. Some have even reverted to bypassing the entire educational system, hiring only people “with the right attitude,” and then teaching the trade skills from within.

While I understand attitude is very important, I still shudder when contractors believe they can teach skills. Face it: Some of you are not good teachers. While the knowledge may be there, that does not mean one can pass it on so that others will learn.

(It is similar to managing. Some contractors “bless” a productive technician or installer by promoting them to a managerial position. Yet if that tech or installer is not given proper managerial training, the tech-turned-manager may just be doomed to fail. And, the people under this new manager probably will not be happy either.)


When it comes to trade school education, there is good news for contractors. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 made several key changes regarding accountability and program improvement. Without going into full detail here - as it can be confusing - the act is basically forcing career and technical education schools to get their act together or fail to get government funding. In order to get funding, schools now have to prove they are passing students that meet required and accepted standards.

Under the former 1998 law, for instance, the major provision of the Perkins accountability system applied only to states. The new law extends the accountability system to local programs as well. Also under the new law, state and local programs are required to report on separate core performance indicators for both secondary and postsecondary students. And, measures for each indicator must be valid and reliable.

Translation: It’s all about accountability. Schools have to prove they are meeting requirements or lose funding. Meanwhile, students have to prove they are learning by meeting certain established requirements - or face the prospect of not graduating and thus not getting into the workforce.

This should be a win-win situation for hiring contractors. By all means, check it out at your local career and/or technical education facility. If the administrator or chairman of the HVACR Department gives you a blank look when you mention the Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006, there’s a strong chance that the school is not following the law. And, it could mean it is producing poor graduates.


This is not to say that contractors are off the hook. It’s easy to point fingers, stating that today’s educational system stinks. The better solution is to help the system improve. We should all be in this together.

Schools are begging for help from the business world. They seek contractors to participate on - and be a part of - curriculum boards and education committees, not to mention numerous other roles. One can donate equipment. Of course, financial help is an option, too. If you are not sure how you can help, ask.

Believe it or not, schools do want to turn out quality candidates for needy contractors. What they ask for is help in making the process a success for all parties concerned. After all, education is still a two-way street, guys and gals. Rather than criticize, be a part of the solution.

Because the House and Senate believed accountability was in order, it’s why they created and passed the Improvement Act of 2006. With accountability now in place, it’s up to teachers, administrators, and contractors to make sure that it doesn’t slip away.

Publication date:02/19/2007