Tampa, Houston, and New Orleans. Those are three destination cities that most would be happy to spend a vacation. That is certainly true for folks like me who are in the Midwest and are beginning to prepare for a long, cold winter. How do I know it will be a long, cold winter? Because that is the only type of winter that we have in Michigan. Fire up the furnaces!

Those three cities are also where the major industry organizations will be holding their next annual meetings. ACCA and their contractors will be in New Orleans. HARDI has the distribution market covered and will be in Houston, while Service Roundtable is holding Service World Expo in Tampa.

The choices makes sense. These organizations want to highest attendance possible, so they hold them in places HVAC contractors want to visit. Why do you think so many of the industry events are held in Las Vegas?

Of course, you don’t want it to be such a great place that the attendees skip the session and trade show. But that is for the associations to worry about — not us.

I bring up this topic because Bill Northrup, CEO of iConnect Training, is using this same philosophy to get HVAC technicians trained. They have established the iConnect Training Center of the Bahamas. Much like the events HVAC contractors attend, it is a healthy mix of business and pleasure.

“We thought it would be unique to build this somewhere so it would be a bit of an adventure,” Northrup said.”

Frankly, I am a bit surprised that nobody in the industry has started doing this. Perhaps they have and I am just not aware, but it sounds like a great idea. It combines a few issues that are problems for the HVAC contractor: finding enough workers to hire and making sure those hires are properly trained.

For the folks at iConnect Training, it simply made too much sense. Bill and his wife, Lori, have had the property in the Bahamas for 30 years and thought it would be a perfect place to create this training center. I certainly would like to escape a week of the cold Michigan winter by flying down to the Bahamas.

“The people are very nice down there. It is just a very friendly place,” Northrup said. “We wanted to bring trainers down and create an environment where contractors can send their best performing technicians.”

The setup is that technicians would go down to the Bahamas for an entire week, thanks to the investment made by the owner of the company they work for. There would be classes four hours a day, and the rest of the day the technicians would be on vacation.

The first session, which will cover heat pumps, is slated for the week of November 12. Different weeks will highlight different technologies. The organizers will let the market decide what topics should be covered.

“Executives and salespeople get these kinds of trips all the time. This is something different and well-deserved for the guys that go out there and work. I have so much respect for HVAC technicians. They work so hard and there are so many disciplines they need to be good at,” Northrup said. “We are excited to do something different for the industry.”

For each week, the training center will welcome down two instructors to do the teaching. The plan is to have a class be made up by about 20 technicians.

While this will not be a solution for all HVAC contractors, it is the type of thinking that all HVAC owners should be doing. In order to recruit — and more importantly, retain — quality technicians, it needs to be more than just money. Undoubtedly, money is important, but the next generation of HVAC technicians see that as only the beginning. These employees need to feel they are a part of something and wanted to be rewarded for their hard work. Recognition is important to them.

If HVAC contractors decide this is not for them, they should be thinking hard about other ways to accomplish their goals.