Do you remember learning about teamwork when you were younger? Do you recall your grade school teacher telling you to play fair, share your things, and — just as important — work together? So much can be accomplished in a short period of time when we implement that key word: teamwork.

Funny how some things never change. And how fitting that these same principles are being tested with the industry’s teachers.

Recently, the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI) held its fifth annual Instructor Workshop in Arlington, VA. (You can read all about this year’s workshop on page 10.) Over 135 instructors gathered there to work together, share their knowledge, and for the most part, play fair.

The Right Idea

For those of you who are not familiar with ARI’s workshop, it’s a free, two-day event for instructors to continue learning, to vent their feelings about the industry, and to share ideas with their colleagues.

Over the last five years, the workshop has grown with more instructors traveling to Arlington and taking part. Each year, these educators can look forward to listening to a variety of speakers. North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and Skills-USA/Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) are two organizations that have a yearly presence and update instructors on what they are doing. There are also many speakers who come to teach the teachers. This includes everything from technical instruction, such as refrigeration and heat pumps, to how to become a more effective instructor.

To illustrate how important this is, I heard over and over again from instructors about how one must keep learning to succeed in the industry. Leslie Sandler, ARI’s education director, agrees. She says that this ongoing training is very important for instructors, not only for their own benefit, but to take what they have learned and give it back to their students.

But even more important than continuing education, according to Sandler, is the opportunity to network. We all know what is wrong with the industry and what we believe needs to be improved. And no one has more of a stake in changing the industry than our instructors who are shaping the future of technicians, contractors, engineers, etc.

Sharing Experiences

Some of the more beneficial opportunities during the workshop occurred when there were no formal speakers or educational sessions and the floor was open to instructors to say whatever was on their mind. The teachers were given a chance to say what they needed, how their programs could use improvement, and so on. By voicing their frustrations to fellow instructors, it provided the chance to find answers.

Since the workshop started, instructors have been voicing what they believe they need to build a better industry. ARI, along with other participating organizations, get to hear what a large majority of instructors are concerned with. These concerns can then be made into a plan of action by the associations.

As a result of this process, ARI has developed several programs in the last few years. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) is one of those programs. It is an industry-approved accreditation for hvacr programs. When a program is PAHRA-accredited, it means that the program is up to the standards set by the industry. This accreditation came about because instructors at these workshops expressed a need for it.

At this year’s workshop, instructors were able to share their opinions on the Air-Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and other hvacr associations. Members of ACCA were present to hear these concerns and said they would take them back to the association to make improvements.

It looks as though ARI and the industry’s instructors are onto something. When we get together, work as a team, and voice what the industry needs, a great deal can be accomplished. These kind of workshops need to be supported, and more involvement is required at all levels.

The industry needs to be on the same page, and I can think of no better way to do it than with what ARI has been doing. When you take a look at the ARI Instructor Workshop, I think it is safe to say that our teachers are right about teamwork.

For more details on ARI’s free instructor workshop, contact Leslie Sandler at 703-524-8836, ext. 308 or at (e-mail).

Siegel is training & education editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1731; 248-362-0317 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 04/02/2001