Saturday, June 23, 2012

Establishing Your Lifelines

All indications are that the HVACR Industry wants to help more people become involved in the HVACR trade. Their motivation is not founded in philanthropy, but self-interest. Unions cannot prosper without skilled members, contractors cannot prosper without skilled workers, and everyone needs skilled technicians to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer (unless they live in Australia where keeping warm in the winter is not a problem). Howard Weiss of the ESCO Group recently sent out an message encouraging everyone involved in HVACR to step up to the plate and contribute to the education efforts in our industry. He points out the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 65.6% of HVACR service personnel in the industry in the year 2020 will be people not in the industry today. The whole industry has a stake in education. I believe that one problem is that many of the organizations who are already involved and contributing the HVACR education efforts often have a difficult time getting the word out. Teachers are often busy keeping up day to day and don’t always have the time to investigate instructional materials, scholarships, industry sponsored training, or equipment donations already available. I find that sometimes companies and organizations can’t understand why more schools, teachers, or students don’t respond to their offers. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Anyone wishing to get instructors involved in their activities needs to plan ahead. Early notice is essential to educators. The educational bureaucracy moves at a slothful pace. The first time I went to the AHRI Instructor’s Workshop, the president of my school had to obtain permission from the state for me to go, even though Pearson was paying my way and I would be speaking at the conference. We have to know months in advance to make things happen.

For manufacturers and trade organizations, you need to market your help the way you market your products and services. One or two e-mails or flyers is just not going to get the job done. You need to make pests of yourselves! It is also a good idea to use more than one method to notify us and to make each promotional piece a little different so that it will be noticed. A good example is the National HVACR Educators and Trainers Conference sponsored by the ESCO Group. They put out e-mails and flyers on a weekly basis months away from the date of their conference. The result is that their conference has sold out two years running in a very tight economy. I know that marketing free or low cost products and services might seem counterintuitive. It is really simply a matter of following a successful model. Persistent marketing works.

As instructors, we need to recognize that we must invest time developing a network of support for our programs. If we wait for the resources we need to just show up, we won't have much to work with. I have several local contractors who donate materials and equipment to my program. A local contractor on my advisory board recently gave our program one of the new Trane Communicating touchscreen thermostats that look like an ipad. What does the contractor get out of the deal? He and most of his employees are graduates of Athens Tech. But all donations do not have to be so elegant. A recent graduate now working in the field brought us a 3 ton ICP heat pump that is less than 2 years old. It was involved in a house fire and was being replaced. Students who needed a job cleaning coils cleaned it up and a student who needed a job installing a split system installed it. I am proud to say that the newest addition to our shop runs great! If you have needs, let someone know. Below is a small list of organizations you can use to start your HVACR support network.

Instructor Networking
  • Council of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Instructors  CARE
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society RSES
Equipment Donations
  • AHRI has a program connecting equipment manufacturers to programs with equipment needs. AHRI Equipment Donations
  • Appion will donate an Appion recovery unit to your school. Also, if you buy their speed kit, they will donate one of their vacuum pumps. Appion Donations
  • AMRAD builds the Turbo 200 multi-capacity replacement capacitors. They will give you one for your class. They will also come to your school and do a class on how to use them. AMRAD donations
  • AHRI Rees Scholarship literally has more money than they know what to do with because too few students apply. Let’s change that.
  • PHCC Scholorship Foundation gives scholarships each year
  • Grainger awards many Tools for Tomorrow scholarships throughout the country which include both financial support and a tool kit

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