With this issue we put to bed another “Best Hvacr Instructor of the Year” contest. Just as schools are starting up a new semester, some students will return to class and to an instructor that has been honored by our contest.

This is not the only contest that The News does on an annual basis. We have the “Best Contractor to Work For” award, and plans are to launch another “Do You Want to Grow Your Business?”contest. Be on the lookout.

There is a lot of legwork involved in running these contests. There are entries to read, winners to visit, and controversy to deal with.

Yes, controversy. Who are we to say who the best instructors are in the industry, or the best contractor for that matter? In regard to the “Best Instructor” contest, all we have to go by are the students who nominate these instructors. To them, their instructor probably is the best instructor in the world. But when it comes right down to it, these contests aren’t about honoring “the best” instructor. It’s about honoring the people that have made sacrifices in order to let this industry thrive.

Take our winner this year, Mark Wright. Wright left a service manager position in order to teach young people and get them interested in the trade. We all know that what the industry needs is qualified employees and more qualified employees. Wright saw that he had the opportunity to help contractors and he went for it. Imagine leaving a job you are comfortable with and completely changing your direction.

Have other instructors done this? Yes, Charlie Hoard, a winner this year and last year, also left a contracting job behind to inspire young people to get involved in a rewarding career.

But I also know that there are several other Hoards and Wrights out there that we did not see in the contest. That is why we are already making plans to improve our contest for next year. The News wants to reach as many students and instructors as we can. And we are not doing it to just sell subscriptions or have some subjective contest as to who is “the best.” The reason we do this is so we can show how many people are out there making sacrifices. There are many individuals behind the scenes who are not only creating outstanding technicians, but are encouraging young men and women to find direction in their life. Sometimes I think we forget that the industry is made up of more than just contractors and technicians. Someone has to get out there and shape those contractors and technicians. And those people are our instructors.

A Few Disappointments

This is the point in the editorial where I get to complain a little bit and say what I would have liked to see different in the contest. Let me start off by saying that the best thing about doing this each year is reading the entries. I honestly never get tired of reading what some of the students have to say about their teachers. The fact that students are taking time out of their life to write a few lines or more about their instructor and mail in a completed entry form says a lot. But even more than that, you can tell just by reading the entry forms that the instuctors have reached these students. The students are excited, motivated, and proud to be doing what they are doing. That can be contributed to their instructor.

Now the problem that I have is that many instructors chose not to participate this year.

After we receive all the student nomination forms, we send a letter to those instructors and congratulate them. We then ask that they fill out a questionnaire about themselves so that we can make a better decision on who to name our winner. If the deadline is approaching and we have not received any information back from an instructor, we try to track them down and call them up. We want to make sure that they received the letter and it didn’t just get lost in the mail or the address was wrong.

The News editorial staff made several phone calls and talked directly to some of the instructors. Some did not receive the letter and were grateful for the phone call. Others just didn’t care.

A close contact of mine called a few of the instructors for me. She talked to an instructor and gave her the good news. The instructor wanted no part of the contest. She said that if she were to win, no one would take her seriously and everyone would focus on her being the token woman in the industry. My contact tried to convince her that this is an honor and that her students nominated her for a reason. Still she wanted nothing to do with it.

I personally spoke to a couple of instructors and asked if they had received our letter. They said yes, but just didn’t have the time to fill out the information and fax it back. Even when I told them that they had been nominated, their reaction was more like I had told them that the grass is green. Big deal. Who cares?

True Inspiration

One can understand being skeptical of a contest and thinking: “If I win, does that mean I have to buy something?” One can also understand being shy or humble. But the real thing to understand from this contest is that the only way to win is to be nominated by a student. Obviously your students think a great deal of you. If not, they wouldn’t have nominated you. It’s no one’s responsibility to enter this contest, but I think an instructor should set an example. By this I mean show the industry who you are and what you are about.

If all hvacr instructors decided not to go to class anymore, our industry would be in a real dire predicament — as if the industry thought it had problems before finding qualified employees. I suppose this is a way to look at our contest. Education and training is a necessity that the hvacr industry cannot live without and our instructors are providing that necessity. This contest shows who these instructors are and hopefully it will help contractors and everyone else in the industry to see how important they are.

We always hear about vocational schools shutting down and student enrollments dropping. In this issue are some instructors who are not only hanging in there, but also really pulling the industry through. Maybe these guys can inspire other instructors to strengthen their programs. And maybe they can inspire industry to back education. Besides, without education, a very important link is missing.

So here is to this year and next year. Perhaps we will see even more of the “best.”

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

Publication Date: 09/10/2001