Monthly Archives: September 2011

Beyond the process of enrolling in a formal HVACR training program in either a proprietary school, community college or university, or participating in a union-sponsored apprentice program, there is OJT. And, certainly, there’s something to be said for On-The-Job training in any craft. As I’ve said before, learning the fundamentals of refrigeration and electrical principles, air flow and mechanical principles, etc…is really only the beginning to achieving journeyman status as an HVACR service technician; being an effective troubleshooter, completing repairs and part replacement in an effective manner, providing professional customer service, and…. generating revenue for either yourself or your employer.

Yes, that’s really the bottom line in the process of learning HVACR, just as it is in any craft. Even if a technician works in facility maintenance, such as a hospital, school, or other commercial building, in the end, it comes down to the ability of any employer to be able to generate revenue in some fashion (fees or taxes), and covering costs of operation, which includes paying technicians. And, no, I’m not talking about money and greed here. I said….revenue….there’s a difference.

The question I often get in regard to OJT is whether or not some one can skip the formal education process and just learn on the job. In my opinion, no. That is, unless the organization you’re working with has found a way to make sure that every service call or other work experience you have will fit into a strict A to Z building block process that is sequential, building from the fundamentals and on through advanced concepts. From time to time, when somebody asks me what I do, and I tell them I’m in HVACR, the response I often get is, “Oh yeah, I was in air conditioning for a while,” and, often, it turns out that the individual was involved in a strictly OJT experience.

I’m not saying OJT isn’t a learning experience, because it is, whether you’ve been in the business for only a year, or if you look around you and realize that you’ve been in the business longer than some of the people you work with have been on the planet. My point is that without a good understanding of the fundamentals, the OJT just isn’t always effective. I’ve seen technicians who have been in the business for more than a decade, and still can’t really and truly read and interpret a schematic diagram, or make the most logical judgment as to the next step in evaluating a refrigeration system according to the pressures they’re reading on their gauges, because they were strictly OJT. Having 20 years of OJT doesn’t always count for as much as some might think it does. Rather than being 20 years of experience, it could be one year of experience twenty times over.

Of course, since I’m sure that anything is possible, someday I’ll meet somebody who has not had one lick of formal education in regard to the theory of operation of refrigeration systems, air flow, or electrical principles, and is functioning just fine in their job.

Until next week….

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

 

 

I’m going to start out this week’s post with four questions:

 

1. What do some graduates of an HVACR training program think about getting hired?

2. What should graduates of an HVACR training program think about getting hired?

3. What do some employers think about graduates of an HVACR training program?

4. What should employers think about graduates of an HVACR training program?

These are four interesting questions whether you’re considering enrolling in an HVACR training program, or if you’re already enrolled in one.

When it comes to question #1, some students about to graduate from an HVACR training program are of the opinion that when they get their first job, they should be paid a starting wage somewhere just a tad South of the amount that a senior or journeyman technician earns. Their reasoning is that since they have invested a given amount of time and money in completing a training program, they should expect to start out at an earning level much higher than someone who “just walked in off the street” and hired on as a helper or on-the-job trainee.

When it comes to question #2, the answer is, well, different than the answer to question #1. While it’s true that a person who has graduated from an HVACR training program has a good deal of information about the fundamentals of refrigeration, electricity, and air flow; and some degree of experience due to lab work in their training program, what they should think about getting hired is that their starting wage isn’t going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of the top money earned by experienced technicians. The graduate of a training program is considered to be an entry-level technician. That’s not to say that they won’t be able to increase their earnings at a faster pace than that of the “off the street” hire…..once the prove what they can do….. read it, generate revenue or control costs for their employer.

The answer to question #3 is that some employers just don’t think much of HVACR technician training program graduates. The reasons for this vary quite a bit. Perhaps they’ve had unpleasant experiences with graduates in the past, discovering that their new hire is unable to perform certain tasks without a lot of assistance. Or, perhaps, they themselves never had an opportunity to attend a training program, and they are either intimidated by somebody who has, or, they’re just of the opinion that trade schools and colleges take up a lot of time to “teach a lot of stuff that a technician doesn’t need to know” when it comes to running service calls or evaluating equipment operation and performance.

And the answer to question #4 is that an employer should consider a graduate, even though they are entry level on the day they are hired, should also be considered as being much more knowledgable than an “off the street” hire because what they have accomplished by completing their training program is gathered the background information they need to understand about HVACR equipment, and have demonstrated an ability to perform certain tasks without any help, while they will need some guidance in order to accomplish others.

Until next week.

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

In Part One of this blog series, I said that when it comes to private schools that offer HVAC training, I have seen some good schools, and I’ve also seen some schools that shouldn’t be in business. In a development related to that idea, regulations that took effect in July of 2011 may have some impact on schools that aren’t being effective in their training programs. It’s called Gainful Employment, and the basic idea behind it is to require private schools to show how the cost of their training program stacks up agains the repayment costs of student loans that a graduate would have to pay once they have to start making their payments. From a practical standpoint, the lower the number that a school achieves when their cost is compared to wage earnings, the better the school’s rating. In theory then, a school that received a rating of 10, for example, would have shown that cost-of-training to income ratio is better than that of another school that was rated at 20 or 30.

As yet, the exact methods that this process will employ to make the system of evaluating a school and assigning a Gainful Employment number work haven’t been fully determined, but whenever it is worked out, it will require that all private schools disclose their rating on their websites. Does that mean that, as a perspective student, you will be able to immediately make sense of this new regulation when you visit a site and check to see if a school is a 10, 20 or 30?

Maybe. Since nobody knows for sure at this point just how the system is going to fairly evaluate a schools performance against loan repayment costs, it’s not a sure thing. And, at this point, nobody knows for sure just how low a number you can expect a school to obtain even if they’re doing a fantastic job of preparing their graduates for the workplace. Nor is it clear yet whether or not a graduate’s earning power will be part of the equation. In my not-so-humble opinion, it would make sense that the actual income of a graduate as an entry level technician in their chosen field of endeavor should be part of the process.

We’ll just have to wait and see what effect this regulation has on the private school business as a whole, and how it may help somebody make a decision in choosing an HVAC training program.

Until next week.

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow.

Jim

Dot-edu, dot-com, dot-org, dot-something else….

One of the questions that comes up regarding attending a school to learn HVACR is about their domain name. In some situations, you may find a trade school or college that is listed as a .edu. For others, it may be  .com, or it may be .org. Most people are Internet-savvy enough to understand at least the intended difference between com, edu and org.

An organization that has registered .com as their domain name, is, like any business that offers any type of product or service for sale, just that…a business. And, of course, there are a variety of organizations that are, as I mentioned in previous segments of this series, in the education (training, if you prefer) business. So, a .com listing is the easiest for us to understand.

Next on the easy to get list is .org. This, for many people, indicates that an organization is a not-for-profit one, but that’s not necessarily true. To test this idea, I just went did a search for a company that sells domain names, then typed in the first company name that came to mind. My search was for the name under the .org listing, and it was available to purchase. This leads me to the conclusion that anybody can purchase a .org domain name, and they don’t have to be a non-profit organization. An industry trade association that employs a .org domain name could, in, fact, be a non-profit entity, and likely is. Or, somebody could decide to create a trade association for a given industry, operate it as a for-profit business, and register a .org domain name. And, a private school of any type could also choose to register as a .org rather than a .com.

And then there’s the .edu domain name registration. Registering a .edu isn’t as easy as a .com or .org. Back in 2001, the United States Department of Commerce awarded a contract to a non-profit organization called Educause. This made this orgainization effectively the governor of allowing a .edu domain name registration. The idea behind this process was to ensure that anybody employing a .edu would be a postsecondary school, college, or university that is accredited by one of the agencies that is DOE (Department of Education) approved.

With all that said about .edu’s, the question is, “Does that mean that any school who is allowed to have a .edu domain will always be a school that provides excellent educational opportunities? The best answer to that question is….yes, it’s possible, but it’s not absolutely guaranteed, for a variety of reasons.

First, there’s the possibility that the .edu domain registration was obtained before the rules became more stringent about the sale of these domain names, or, it could have come to them in a way other than as intended by the Department of Commerce.  It wouldn’t hurt to ask an admissions representative how their organization obtained their .edu domain name. And if that person doesn’t know, they can certainly fnd out.

Second on the list is the fact that “accreditation” just isn’t going to be an iron-clad guarantee that the education you’ll get is going to be absolutely top-flight. A school can look their best for the two or three days that an accreditation team is on-site performing their evaluation, then later become, or revert back to, being far less than perfect at providing all the best possible to its students (this applies to  any manner of institution, be it private or public).

And another variable is the accrediting agency itself. What are their standards? How do their standards compare to other accrediting agencies? How are these standards actually met by the school? And what about the members of the accrediting team? Was there actually somebody on the team who really knew HVAC, or was it an administrator who knows voc-ed from an academic standpoint only?  Obviously, these are questions you likely won’t be able to really ask, or get an answer to even if you did, but as somebody who is considering investing time an money into getting an education, it’s your responsibility to perform due diligence in your research before making a buying decision.

Until next week.

Learn from yesterday…..Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

 

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