I am a bookworm. I love to read fiction, but my guilty pleasure is science fiction and fantasy — something my husband teases me about relentlessly. My home office is also my library — shelves upon shelves full of books. I’m actually running out of space, which is a problem.

Acknowledging this beloved hobby of mine, my husband bought me a Kindle e-reader a few years ago, which is something I thought I’d never use. There’s just something immensely satisfying about the smell of a book and the feel of physically turning pages until you reach the end.

However, I decided to give the Kindle a try, and, I hate to admit it, but I’m hooked. I practically take the thing with me everywhere I go — to the doctor’s office, on the plane, and even to the gym. The device is light, slips easily into my purse, and holds countless books. Additionally, if anything suddenly strikes my fancy, I can order it from Amazon with the touch of a finger. Thank you, technology.

In today’s classrooms, young learners are relying more and more on the accessibility and flexibility that tablets and digital resources provide. Digital textbooks are outnumbering their physical counterparts, largely eliminating the heavy backpacks filled to capacity with hardcover texts that my generation — and my parents’ generation — lugged around campus.

Institutions everywhere, including trade schools, are embracing this trend and adapting their curriculums.

Many believe online education is a necessity when it comes to attracting the HVAC industry’s next generation of workers. HVACRedu.net, founded in 1998, offers about 1,300 hours of online assessments, reviews, courses, and programs for the HVACR and building-performance industries. The content varies from entry-level instruction through sophisticated technical courses. Many contractors have turned to HVACRedu.net for supplemental and alternative employee training.

Comfort Systems USA recently partnered with HVACRedu.net to establish its own custom campus for a wide variety of educational courses for technicians.

Other HVAC businesses, like Reitmeier HVAC Services in Tualatin, Oregon, are having success creating their own certified training programs. Reitmeier University is a two-year continuing education program designed to train and certify new commercial HVAC services employees. The program was established in 2015 and features classes for first- and second-year students. Reitmeier’s educational director, a technician and accredited instructor, leads the program.

Reitmeier University’s entire curriculum is available online.

“Millennials prefer online forms of communication,” said Robyn Benedetti, vice president of operations at Reitmeier. “So, making the curriculum available online only seemed natural. The company is also in the process of becoming paperless. Students are in class for two hours, one day a week. The rest of their time is spent in the field with a mentor, who also happens to be a senior-level technician. The program teaches apprentices all the technical information they need, as well as the company’s culture and values.”

Like it or not, millennials have eclipsed Gen-Xers to become the largest share of the American workforce. And, with contractors everywhere experiencing labor shortage pains, there is fierce competition to hook the best and brightest prospects coming out of trade schools.

Given the option, which company is more attractive to young technicians — a company that tosses them a 200-page training manual or one that offers online education, continuing education opportunities, and online certification?

Upgrading your methodologies may be a costly endeavor, but, I’d wager the price of running in place will end up costing you much more. Don’t be a Borders Bookstore in today’s Kindle world.

Publication date: 3/14/2016

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