John R. Hall

It’s an age-old myth that the trades should be a last resort profession for young people. You’ve all heard the stories in your own communities - that young people who couldn’t cut it in the world of medicine or technology would be destined for a career as a plumber, bricklayer, or heaven forbid, an HVACR technician. The high school teachers and counselors in your own backyards were (and still are) doing the best to undermine your efforts to attract and recruit young people to our profession.

Many of you fight back and present strong arguments that the HVACR trade offers many rewarding and challenging career opportunities. As technology changes the skill set needed to design, sell, install, and service equipment that is the lifeblood of homes and buildings, it has become a skill set that rivals any others in professions where more emphasis is put on brain than brawn.

For example, how many jobs require a high level of electronic, computer, and mechanical skills in order to succeed? I argue that an HVACR service technician is much more than the “parts changer” that the public has been led to believe. (And now that same person is taught a lot about people skills too, a subject for another discussion.)

That’s why I am encouraged when I read about influential people in the educational field who get it and speak out in defense of the trades. In this case, I am talking about Cheri Jimeno, president of New Mexico State University-Alamogordo (NMSU-A). She recently wrote a very interesting column forAlamogordo Daily Newsin which she put on the reporter’s hat and interviewed the publisher of that newspaper, Mike Bell.


The headline of the article was “Voc ed not just for ‘bad’ kids.” Jimeno knew that Bell’s background included an instructor position where he taught courses in woodworking, drafting, welding, electricity, construction, small engine repair, drafting, and graphic arts. Bell has one brother who is a commercial sheet metal worker, one brother who is a certified welder, and a brother-in-law who is a master electrician.

In the interview, Bell said that some people have the misconception that the trades are where the bad kids are sent. But he added, “This is not the case. To be successful in vocational fields, you have to have a good understanding of math, reading, oral and written communications. You also have to have a good analytical mind and an excellent work ethic.

“Certainly, in today’s society some tasks can be sent to another part of the country or overseas. [But] if a press unit breaks down or a wall has to be built to code or a HVACR unit needs repair, you can’t transport the unit. Someone must be on-site who can repair or replace the unit.”

The motivation for Jimeno’s article was a vote to continue support for vocational education training programs in the local Alamogordo campus of New Mexico State University, rather than transferring the programs to another campus.

In the article she wrote, “One of the workforce development needs of our community is training in the trades. If we can locally implement these types of training programs, we can stop outsourcing this type of training to Las Cruces, El Paso or Hobbs. NMSU-A could start implementing programming in the trades with the passage of the General Obligation bond April 1.

“The bond question is being put to voters in the Alamogordo school district. The passage of this bond does not mean an additional investment of the community in NMSU-A. It simply means maintaining the same level of investment into NMSU-A that the community has made into its community college since 1990.”


The April 1 vote passed by almost a three to one margin. I will keep an eye on this story and hope the results keep the training programs alive in Alamogordo. Hopefully I can talk with Jimeno as this story progresses and pick the brain of someone who truly understands how important the HVACR trade is and how young people can benefit from HVACR training programs in their community.

It also makes me think of the words I used in this headline, such as thugs and punks. I didn’t use these words to offend anyone - I would prefer that people are encouraged and proud of the young people who trickle into our trade. If a person bears the moniker of a thug and has made a successful career in the HVACR field, then send me a lot more of these thugs.

Only, let’s give them a different name. Here’s a suggestion: “professional service technician.” After all, isn’t that exactly what they are?

Publication date:04/14/2008