Mark Skaer

In the process of trying to help a future HVACR tech, I recently discovered that there is a lack of available scholarships for students seeking to attend, or who are attending, HVACR vocational schools.

At his request, I came over to the house of Mitchell Arnold a few weeks ago, with the object of helping the soon-to-be 20-year-old nail down some possible scholarships. The bright kid is a great employee. Just ask the operator of the landscaping business to which he has been working for since high school and continues to do so while going full-time at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis.

Mitchell enjoys working with his hands. However, he does not want to have a career in landscaping. He is looking to have a more substantial career, which is why he turned to this industry.

As Mitchell will be the first to tell you, it is not necessarily easy paying one’s own way to attend a vocational school. In this case, tuition at Ranken is approximately $5,600 per semester. And, books and tools are separate fees, and each can vary.

If Mitchell stays on course, he looks to have his two-year associate’s degree in HVACR in hand by the end of the 2009 winter semester. In the meantime, though, he’s worrying about having enough money in the bank to get through the ranks and become a much-needed item in this industry: an HVACR tech.

“I’m trying,” said Mitchell, as we began searching for possible scholarship offers via the Internet.

The Breese, Ill., native does not want to pay his way with student loans. The hard-working youth does not desire to be in debt up to his eyeballs once he graduates.

So, where are those scholarships?


I pointed Mitchell to the Clifford H. “Ted” Rees, Jr. Scholarship. A foundation was established some years ago in honor of the former leader of the formerly known Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). The scholarship was established to encourage students to pursue higher education and a career as techs. The $2,000 scholarship is for qualified students who are enrolled, or plan to enroll, in an HVACR program at an accredited institution. The foundation awards 10 scholarships to deserving students twice a year before the fall and spring academic semesters.

Mitchell is keeping his fingers crossed. At the same time, he is scurrying about in hopes of getting to know and earn the respect of a member of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association (PHCC). PHCC does a great job of offering financial help to students. Its Educational Foundation and industry partners team up to identify and aid students pursuing a career in the industry. The foundation administers a scholarship that has been funded by the PHCC Auxiliary of Massachusetts. The PHCC National Auxiliary also awards approximately $40,000 in scholarships per year.

That’s the good news. The bad news - at least in Mitchell’s case - is that students must not only be enrolled or plan to enroll in a PHCC-approved plumbing or HVACR apprentice program (which is not the stumbling block in Mitchell’s case), but must also work full time for a licensed plumbing or HVACR contractor who is a member of PHCC. That’s the gotcha.

Between now and next semester, Mitchell will need to find full-time employment with a PHCC contractor in order to qualify to apply for a possible scholarship. There’s no guarantee that he would be awarded one.


Going down the list of still more industry associations, still more stumbling blocks cropped up. Most require a connection to the association. For example, multiple academic scholarships are available for employees of Heating, Airconditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) member firms presently enrolled in HVACR/distribution studies - another swing and a miss for Mitchell.

The 5 STAR Service Training program, offered in conjunction with the Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA) and the United Association of Plumbing, Pipefitting, and Sprinklerfitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA), is a great way to step into the industry in a most economical manner. Apprentices are taught core skills, basic math, and customer service. It’s a blend of on-the-job and classroom training (typically 1,700-2,000 hours on the job and 216 hours classroom each year of the five-year program).

At the end of the five years, one’s skills should be in high demand, and all the while the person could be earning a paycheck. It’s something for Mitchell to consider, but what about anyone else in the same situation? Where are this industry’s scholarships for students enrolled at vocational schools, seeking to become HVACR technicians? Let me know.

Publication date:01/21/2008