A lot can happen when you have 200 HVACR instructors in one room. I should know. Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute's (ARI's) Instructor Workshop in Arlington, Va. (For the full story on ARI's Instructor Workshop, see page 42.)

This yearly workshop is a gift of sorts from ARI, a little something to show instructors that the industry is in their corner and willing to help.

The instructors learn a lot, from how to teach certain concepts in the classroom to staying ahead of new technology.

This was my fourth trip to Arlington for the workshop, and I learn something new every year. Namely, I get to learn what issues are affecting instructors and how they are dealing with them. I have also learned that HVACR instructors, and instructors in general, are greatly underappreciated.

It's Not So Easy

I think it is fair to say that we sometimes forget about our instructors. More specifically, we forget how hard their job is. Imagine the pressure. You have a classroom full of students. Some of them are just starting out, looking to begin a career path in the industry. Others are men and women who have been in the workforce and decided to make a career change.

Either way, they are looking to you for guidance and the skills they will need to succeed. And they are relying on you not to let them down.

Now imagine the outside forces: contractors who need technicians. They have job openings waiting, but not just any jobs; they need individuals who are qualified and know what they are doing. They need someone who has the basic skills and can continue to broaden their technical expertise as technology and new products proliferate.

But it doesn't stop there. They need workers who will have the customer service skills necessary to create repeat business.

It would be an understatement to say that there are more than a few contractors who have hired technicians and found that they were less than competent. It's the same old story. The new hire couldn't figure out a simple wiring diagram or doesn't know how to charge a refrigeration system properly.

Perhaps the technician didn't have the soft skills that help make customers comfortable and enable them to trust the company.

These are common complaints that are vented by contractors. But something else happens very often, as well. And that something doesn't get the attention and recognition it deserves.

Every day, every semester, every school year, there are instructors who are working overtime to make sure that the technicians you hire are the best they can be. For some instructors, it is their lifeblood and their passion, not just to give you the qualified workforce you need, but also to help individuals become a great success.

Here's A Way To Say Thanks

The Newsand ARI want to encourage instructors like this to keep up the good work. On page 58 of this issue you will find a nomination form for our fourth-annual "Instructor of the Year" contest.

The contest is our way of giving the industry's best instructors a well-deserved pat on the back. It is also a way for you, our readers, to see that there are instructors out there who are doing everything in their power to give you what you need.

To participate, nominate the instructor who has made your job easier, the one that has given you the qualified technicians you need, or the one who taught you everything you needed to know. The nomination process is open to anyone who has seen an instructor's work. If you are a student who has benefited from an instructor's expertise, we encourage you to participate.

Just fill out the nomination form and fax or mail it to The News. Mailed entries must be postmarked by June 18. You may also fill out a nomination form on our Web site (go to our home page and click on HVACR Instructor Of The Year Contest).

ARI has pledged to support this year's winner by providing the help the instructor needs to improve his or her program even more. It's a gift from ARI. Think of the contest as your gift, your way of saying thanks to the instructor who came through for you.

James Siegel is training and education editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1731, 248-362-0317 (fax), or jamessiegel@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 04/26/2004