The Comeback of the High School Technical Courses

[Editor’s note: This letter is in response to Peter Powell’s editorial “Who Not to Blame for the Technician Shortage,” Nov. 12.]

As a professional educator and mechanical contractor, I would like to address the tech shortage issue. I’m sure that most of us were enrolled in some type of shop class in junior or senior high school - sometimes not by choice. I know that when I was in junior high, we had to take certain shop classes.

As the years have gone by, gradually there are fewer and fewer shop classes in schools. This is a result of teachers retiring and the position not being filled. The government has reduced its funding to these classes. There has been a shift away from the trades and into more lucrative and glamorous computer jobs. School guidance counselors have been guiding students away from these classes and into college prep courses. The more students who graduate and go to college, the better the school’s perceived image.

Well, most students who enroll in college don’t finish, and we all know where those computer jobs went - overseas. Thankfully, the trend seems to be reversing. More emphasis is starting to be focused on the technical careers. If we want more techs, we need to start by getting the federal government to increase its funding of the Carl Perkins Act. Then, we need to get with the local school districts and see that these courses are brought back. Then, get the guidance counselors to steer these young men and women back to us.

A college degree is a great thing. Not everyone needs or wants one, or can afford it.

Pat Donahue
HVACR Instructor
Abilene High School
Abilene, Texas

SEER Standards and Real Conditions

ARI agrees with Mike Murphy’s most recent column (“Murphy’s Law: SEER Testing Needs an Overhaul,” Dec. 3) in which he states that SEER should reflect the real-world conditions. ARI, along with DOE [Department of Energy] and NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology], has been working to improve the SEER standard, ARI Standard 210/240. Any single point rating system is a compromise between, on one hand, being helpful and understandable to the consumer and, on the other, being a reasonable and repeatable test. We agree that SEER should be reflective of real-world conditions, when an air conditioner or heat pump is installed by a knowledgeable, competent technician using good practices.

However, just as an auto’s mpg [miles per gallon] doesn’t reflect what happens if you jack rabbit start, speed, or don’t maintain your car in good working order, SEER should not take into account every poor design and installation, such as those that are poorly sized or poorly charged. These practices can severely impair the actual SEER, but these are practices that should be, and are, being addressed by other means.

Murphy correctly notes that many of today’s installations have higher static pressures due to longer, smaller ducts, filters, or poor designs. They are real-world concerns and should be considered. We are pleased that ARI Standard 210/240 has been adopted as law by the federal government. However, that also means that ARI standard developers do not have the last say in this. DOE must bless any change in the standard and that involves government review and public comments. We look forward to working with DOE, NIST, and experts in the field to constantly improve the rating system for HVACR equipment.

Mark Menzer
Executive Vice President
Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute
Arlington, Va.

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Publication date: 12/24/2007