A recurring theme in the HVACR industry is finding good technicians. But then there are those good technicians who come to the industry pretty much on their own.

Such a person is Kevin Wenciker, who this spring completes the two-year Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration program at Elgin Community College (ECC) in the Chicago suburb of Elgin, Ill. He atypically did so in the two-year time frame of the program for full time students. Along the way he earned Industry Competency Exam and Environmental Protection Agency certifications as well as North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certifications in the core service, gas heating, and heat pump areas (even though NATE officials generally suggest that test takers be in the industry for several years before attempting the exams).


Kevin also has found time to serve as a lab technician, create troubleshooting faults for students to diagnose, act as a tutor, and serve as the ECC student chapter president of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society.

It is obvious that Kevin is self motivated to do a lot more than earn passing grades, but the path to the industry was a long one - in fact close to 12 years from the time he graduated from high school to entering the ECC program.

Elgin Community College student Kevin Wenciker (left) with instructor Andy Erbach.
In those dozen years, Kevin, 30, was involved in a number of trades doing odd jobs in plumbing, electrical, remodeling, drywall, woodworking, and automobile repair. He said mechanical aptitude came easily to him, although finding the right career was more difficult.

Awareness along the way of HVACR contractors and technicians spurred his interest in the industry. His family had relocated from Ashtabula, Ohio, to Elgin, Ill., and when Wenciker decided to pursue an HVACR career he left Ohio to look into the ECC program at the urging of his father, who was an engineer for a plastics firm and knew of the college's programs.

"I was impressed with the variety of equipment and offerings in such areas as sheet metal, residential furnaces, refrigeration ... they had a little of everything," Kevin said. "I knew I would not be doing the same thing over and over again."

Andy Erbach, instructor and coordinator for the HVACR program at ECC, said Kevin is an example of a self-motivated person entering a vocational program. "He has a desire. He wants to learn. He is not willing to accept a simple explanation. He is willing to ask questions."

When he completes the program this May, Kevin said he would be interested in facility maintenance work in HVACR ... and maybe some part-time teaching down the road.

The message is simple: If you are a contractor or technician traveling about and happen to notice someone who seems quite good putting up drywall or tuning a car, and seems to be highly motivated to do a good job, take note: That could be the next qualified technician that the HVACR industry so desperately needs. And you could speed up the transition to HVACR by approaching them rather than just hoping that person might be the next Kevin Wenciker wanting to come to you.


By the way, a good way to steer such people to vocational careers is by inviting them to attend vo-tech nights at a local community college. For those of you in the Chicago area, the aforementioned ECC has an Industrial Technology Career Night April 12 (check it out at www.elgin.edu). For those elsewhere, I suspect similar nights take place at community colleges near you.

Peter Powell, Refrigeration Editor, 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax), peterpowell@achrnews.com

Publication date: 02/06/2006