That James Bergmann is something else.

Bergmann, the HVACR Instructor at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center (located outside of Cleveland, OH) was present on Oct. 14 for the first-ever Workforce Recruitment and Retention Summit, hosted by The News and Oakland Schools (Oakland County, MI).

Bergmann confirmed that it was a solid three-hour drive from Brecksville, OH, to Royal Oak, MI, especially with evening rush-hour traffic to contend with. Yet, the talkative teacher — one of the runners-up in The News’ 2002 HVACR Instructor of the Year contest — mentioned that he was not about to miss the event that was to take place that evening at Oakland Schools Technical Campus-Southeast.

“I told you I was coming,” he said, before he and other volunteers began to form a line at the buffet table, the first order of business for the evening.

Yes, editors of The News thought if we provided food for the occasion, contractors near The News’ headquarters (which is Troy, MI) would see it as an additional incentive to come to this summit. (And, in the end, the culinary art and hospitality students involved in these Oakland Schools programs provided a wonderful buffet, which included salad, steamed vegetables, broiled redfish, and saut? breast of chicken. Quite a spread.)

But the food was not necessarily the most important reason Bergmann and other volunteers attended the event. Each came to learn more about the HVACR student instructional program that Oakland Schools is currently trying to put into place.


If you have not been keeping track ofThe News’venture into the world of education, just know that we opted to help Oakland Schools establish another HVACR training program. Conversations began in January with Mary Kaye Aukee, director of Career Focused Education at Oakland Schools.

The project has continually progressed, and now building space at the Southeast campus has been set aside for the establishment of the program. Oakland Schools has also hired Rob Featherstone as a new instructor for the construction department.

Aukee says that construction of the area set aside for the HVACR program will begin in the not-so-distant future. It is her hope to include up-to-date, modern equipment for the program (and she is willing to listen to what your firm, wholesaling business, and/or manufacturing company may have to offer to the cause), in addition to having enthusiastic instructors teaching enthusiastic high school students.

The main aims of the Oct. 14 meeting, however, were to discuss:

  • What everyone present at the meeting could do to reshape outdated perceptions — among students, parents, the public at large, and the media — about careers in the HVACR industry and instructional programs at the Oakland Schools four technical campuses;

  • How everyone present could help get information and messages about career preparation and workforce needs into the mainstream of awareness in Oakland County, MI, especially among students, their parents, and the media; and

  • The best way everyone present could communicate these messages to mainstream Oakland County, MI.


    News training and education editor James Siegel will report on the evening’s developments in the Oct. 28 issue of The News, but know that the Oct. 14 event drew plenty of questions, concerns, opinions, suggestions, and “good stuff.”

    During the course of the evening, all present were asked to divvy up into groups and ponder the above questions. To give you an inkling of where the participants were coming from, one group said some of the necessary moves would be to advertise salaries made in the industry; to develop brochures outlining career paths; to publicize Career Focused Education through local newspaper and television; to boost the presence of HVAC at school Career Days; to create a network between school and associations; and to point students to appropriate industry-specific websites.

    Other participants wanted to know if it was best to educate the parents about the industry first. Or, was it better to get students interested in the trade first, as they would then “hook” in the parents and their eventual involvement? In the end, it was decided that both strategies could be used to get more young people interested in the trade. The bottom line was: If it proves to work, then do it.

    I know it was a long ride back for James Bergmann, but here’s hoping he left with the good feeling that comes from helping others, knowing that he was one of the initial participants that helped push forward the Oakland Schools’ up-and-coming HVACR student program.

    We’ll keep you informed of the progress.

    Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446; 248-362-0317 (fax); (e-mail).

    Publication date: 10/21/2002