All In The Same Basket

Don't be surprised when you read my story here. It's a real shame on those trade schools and certification organizations. I've said to myself, I will write about this issue, but due to the workload, I never got a chance to write on this topic. But finally the issue was brought up on Aug. 2, when editor-in-chief Mark Skaer wrote the editorial "Clearing Up The Certification Jungle."

We also read about "The Certification Circus Comes To Town," by Robert P. Scaringe, in the Aug 23 Reader Mail. And now let me tell you about my experience with the certification organizations and the trade schools.

Last year, I hired an HVACR technician to work in my company. I decided to hire from a trade school, so I contacted the job placement officer of that trade school.

The officer called me and spoke to me and said he/she is sending me an excellent student who has already graduated from the school with the highest marks. I said OK. The guy came for the interview, with industry certifications, a diploma, and score sheet.

He told me he had no field experience, but said he knew all the tools and how to diagnose problems. I made it very clear to him that he was not going alone in the field, he would be going along with an HVACR technician, and he agreed.

But to tell you the truth, he was a complete nightmare for me. He did not even know the basic tools of the trade nor have any knowledge of trade or field.

I asked him personally how he graduated from that trade school with such a high score. I also asked him how he obtained his certifications. He couldn't explain it to me. And I asked him how much he paid the school for this diploma and how much time he spent in the school. He said he paid $8,000 and spent 10 months in the school.

After three months, I had to get rid of him because I was in need of some guy with a little bit of experience and who knows and understands this field.

Are you shocked to hear this? Don't be surprised.

Here's another trade school story.

Another tech I met graduated from a trade school in New Jersey. This school charges $18,000, and it takes two years for the course. This guy asked me if he could work for me for free for a while until he can get some experience in the field.

I asked him why he wants to work for free? He said just to get some field experience, and he doesn't even mind working for free. It's amazing but sad to hear.

I asked him why he didn't try to work for some contractor for a while as a helper. He said that everyone is asking about field experience, and that they turned him down. And this guy also holds a universal certification. I couldn't hire him at all, because I didn't have any openings for the job at that time, but I told him I would keep his name and number in my file if anything becomes available. This is another sad story about these trade schools.

Now let's see, in general are these trade schools, community colleges, or vocational schools really a good start? Or are they a scam and rip-off? I don't say everyone is doing this. I believe there are some good schools and there are some junk schools, but how does the high school graduate going [to these schools] to know this?

Students and their parents spend so much money on their children or their son, and these guys end up in this mess; it is a real shame and a waste of hard-earned money and time.

The certification issue is one of the biggest areas for potential scams and rip-offs. And no matter what, our industry will never ever have one type of national standard certification. The certification issue is another way of making money and not as a standard of our industry certification. There are some good apples here and bad apples here, too. It's hard to separate good and bad, because they all are in the same basket.

Miguel Barreto
Mike's Refrigeration Service Plus
Bogota, N.J.

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Publication date: 09/06/2004