Jim’s Blog

This will be the last segment of a 10-part series on the subject of learning HVACR. But that doesn’t mean that I, for one moment, think that there can be an end to learning about the HVACR craft, though. Like any industry, there are always new developments in HVACR, and the people who maintain and troubleshoot air conditioning and refrigeration systems will, almost every day, encounter a heat pump, gas furnace, or some other type of equipment that gives them pause because they haven’t seen anything exactly like it before. So, the learning never stops.

Are there some technicians working in HVACR who either don’t or won’t understand this concept? Yes, there are some, and as an entry-level technician, you may enounter one from time to time. Here’s some advice for you: If, when you are hired on your first job and assigned to ride with a lead tech for a while, and on your first day out, that person turns to you and says, “Don’t worry about a thing, Kid. I know everything you need to know about this business,” then I suggest that you jump out of the vehicle at the first opportunity, because you’re riding around with a crazy person who is not only unaware of reality, but is also dangerous.

Kidding aside, though….once you’ve decided on a career in HVACR, your next decision is about how you’re going to learn what you need to know and be able to do what you need to do in order to get paid for doing it. And, in this series I’ve provided some detail on the different avenues you can take to get the training and knowledge you need.

There’s the proprietary, for-profit trade school, the community college, and the university. Which route you’ll choose will depend on many factors.

If your goal is to work in the installation and service segments of HVACR, a reputable trade school offering a certificate program that is full-time (meaning that you’ll be attending at least 4 days a week for at least 6 hours a day) can effectively prepare you, via the proper blend of classroom and hands-on lab time, to be an entry level technician in about 6 months. And the price of a such a program will likely be somewhere North of $10,000 these days, which is why the school you’re considering should be able to say that “financial aid is available to those who qualify” in their advertising.

Community colleges also offer certificate programs, and while the price will be lower, the amount of time it takes to complete a program will often be longer, due to the different type of scheduling. And, since a community college is, by definition, an academic institution, you may be required to take some courses that are not exactly HVACR-related in order to earn your certificate. (Not that taking a Writing 101 or other basic academic class is a bad thing. Being able to communicate effectively and have a grasp of mathematics/algebra is important for an HVACR technician.)

When it comes to degree programs, you’ll find applied technology degrees offered by private schools, and associate degrees offered by community colleges. In my opinion, an effective degree program builds on certificate training and provides a well-rounded curriculum in regard to equipment design and load estimating, as well as more advanced concepts on climate control in commercial applications.

Beyond the associate level or applied technology degree, a four-year degree from a univeristy may be what you decide to pursue. This, of course, is more from an engineering and design perspective. You don’t often find people with a Bachelor’s Degree running service calls, troubleshooting equipment problems, and performing hands-on tasks. If this is the route you decide to take, you may also consider the idea of starting out at a community college for your first two years, then transferring to a university. It’s my experience that this can be a very effective way to pursue a four-year degree for many people.

In the often strange, yet wonderful world of academia, things that shouldn’t get in the way of a person’s education, often do, especially when they are in their first two years of college. I recall a time quite a few years back when I was facilitating a program that prepared individuals for work in the community college system, being asked what the real difference was between a community college and a university. My response was, “The major difference between a community college and  university is the number of snobs per square foot. They’re much thicker in a university.”

I hope this series has provided you with the information and insight you need as you consider getting into the HVACR industry, and whatever route you decide to take in getting your education, I wish you success in your endeavor.

Until next week….

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



In previous posts on this subject I touched on the idea of what contractors expect from trade school graduates. In this segment, I’ll take that idea a bit further by discussing some specific comments contractors submitted to a survey. This survey was conducted by Steve Coscia who is the author of a book on soft skills for technicians, and also provides training materials on the subject for schools and colleges. The focus of the survey was on the kind of job that HVACR training programs have been doing in the opinion of contractors.

In the survey, I counted 185 total responses, and found the following:

60 of those responding said that schools needed to spend more time on training in soft skills. Some of these  references mentioned communication skills specifically, and others referred specifically to  sales skills.  From my view, the bottom line on all of these responses could be listed under the label of “People Skills”, or “Customer Service Skills”, or “Professionalism”.

34 of those responding said that graduates needed more hands-on training during their training programs so they would be more ready to function in the “real world” of HVACR servicing.

7 of those responding said that the schools needed to make sure that graduates would be realistic in their understanding of what they would earn on their first job. The general consensus among these respondents was that schools sometimes over-inflate what a graduate would earn in order to convince them to enroll in the training program.

The balance of the responses were more general in nature, so I’m going to concentrate only on the ones I’ve listed above.

Just in case you missed it….note that more contractors were concerned about customer service and people skills training than anything else. What this says is that while technical skills are important for HVACR technicians, it’s just as important that a technician visiting a customer’s home or place of business is professional, and has the ability to communicate well with the customer and leave them with the feeling that they made the right choice in choosing their service contractor.

Regarding the unrealistic expectations of graduates, I hold schools responsible if they turn out a graduate who doesn’t understand that even through have have completed a six-month, one-year training program, or two-year degree program, that they are still an entry-level technician. And, as an entry level technician, one simply cannot expect to be earning journeyman level wages right out of the gate.

On the more hands-on issue….in my opinion, there’s only just so much a school can do. There’s simply no way to cover the aspects of all the specific troubleshooting and service situations a technician may encounter in the field, so some of this may be an unrealistic expectation on the part of the contractor. On the other hand, if a school doesn’t provide the right learning opportunities, then it is a valid complaint.

There were a few other comments in the survey that I want to mention: (I’ve listed them here without any editing for grammar, punctuation, etc…)

“Finishing a trade school is only the beginning of there education”…… On this one, I whole-heartedly agree. Anybody who thinks they don’t have something to learn just about every day in the HVACR service business needs to wake up and smell the coffee, because that’s how it is.

“Make SURE that the student learns a process to diagnose HVAC systems or he is only going to be qualified to change filters”…. I also agree with this opinion. The graduate who doesn’t understand how to determine the correct operating sequence for a piece of equipment, then be able to find out where the problem in the sequence is, won’t be able to function fully as a troubleshooter.

“Eliminate the personal opinions of teachers who could not make it in the real world”….. I hear this comment from time to time from those who work in the HVACR field, and usually, the profile of the individual who would say this is one who had no, or very little, opportunity for formal training, and they are intimidated by anyone else who either has field experience along with the skill to teach HVACR, or a graduate who has completed a certificate or degree program. Of course, there could be exceptions to this profile…..

Until next week…

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



The majority of learning about HVACR is technical. There’s no doubt about that. And, most of what I’ve been discussing in this series has focused on that….how to do you decide how you’re going to be able to learn the technical stuff you need to know. Things like actually being able to track down the source of a problem with the operation of a piece of equipment, and, in the end, get paid for getting it running again. I don’t know if we can really measure and attach a percentage to the technical side of being an HVACR technician and compare it to the soft skills side, but I would guess it would be pretty high. Let’s say that it’s 90% of what you do. That leaves only 10% for what’s referred to as the soft skills a person needs in order to do their job.

OK, it’s a 90-10 situation. But that doesn’t mean that since it’s only 10 percent of what we do that it’s not of major importance. As a matter of fact, the way I look at it is that even though it’s “only” 10 percent, not doing it well will mean that, in the end, you won’t be able to effectively accomplish the other 90 percent of doing your job. So while you’re learning HVACR from an electrical, refrigeration, air flow, and mechanical perspective, invest in developing your soft skills too.

If you’re in residential HVACR, this boils down to what I call direct-and-to-the-point, front-line customer service. If you’re in commercial arena of HVACR, it still means front-line customer service, and the only difference is that the people you interact with may not be spending money directly from their own pocket (although they may be if it’s a small restaurant, bar, or independently-owned convenience store), but it’s still you interacting with the people who have asked you to perform a service for them. And even it it’s not their own money, it’s still their job to be responsible for spending the company’s money.

In the process of learning about soft skills, here are five simple facts I think you should keep in mind:

1. Showing up well-dressed in a uniform, as neat and clean as you can be, even though you’ve just spent the last two hours in a dirty, dusty, heat-choked crawl space, is where your customer service begins. Along with arriving in a lettered service vehicle so you’re customer won’t wonder if you might be an axe murderer.

2. If you think nose rings are cool, or that ‘this is a free country, damn it, and I should be able to have my hair down to my shoulders without being hassled by somebody about it’,  that’s your right. I won’t deny that. But, if there’s a chance that it might make your customer uncomfortable for whatever reason you don’t agree with, don’t be surprised if being stubborn about your right to look however you want to look has an effect on your ability to make all the money you deserve to make by being good at what you do in the HVACR profession, and, in the end, affect how happy you will be with yourself  at the end of every work day, work week, month, or at the end of the quarter when it’s time to cash your bonus check.

3. Introducing yourself to a customer, being polite, smiling, and telling them your name, and being ready to shake their hand if it’s appropriate, doesn’t make you a slimy, sneaky, sales type. It’s part of your job as a technical professional.

4. Wearing shoe covers that are often referred to as “booties” doesn’t mean you’re a weenie. It means that you’re showing the customer that you have respect for their home or office by not tramping through it with your dirty, greasy, oil-stained work boots. (And, in order to get respect from somebody, show respect for them.)

5. Taking the time to explain to your customer what you did and why you did it is just as important to them as it is to get their equipment working again. If you aren’t comfortable talking with customers, learn how to get comfortable with it.

Until next week….

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



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




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


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.


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



A term that is often used to describe a college or trade school that offers HVACR technician training is “accredited”.  I think that, for the most part, when a potential student sees this term on a school’s website or in a brochure, it gives them a sense of confidence that the instruction they will recieve there is going to be of a certain quality. And, I would agree with that most of the time. If an educational institution has taken the time to apply (and pay what is often a hefty fee) for accreditation, it likely means that they are interested in providing a quality training experience. 

It also means something else.

The bottom line, $$wise, on getting accredited as a school or college is that with that process accomplished, the students who attend there will be eligible for government-sponsored financial aid programs. Translation: When someone enrolls in an HVACR training program, the financial aid office at the school will be able to assist them in applying for grants and loans to help cover the cost of tuition. Sometimes it’s all the funding needed for a training program…. books, tools (if the school you enroll in offers them as part of their training package)… along with tuition. And sometimes this financial aid covers most of the cost, but not all, or, it may work out in an individual situation, that it only covers a small part of the cost of an education. It varies according to the price of the education and the individual situation of the student.

Moving on about this subject…..the question that most people don’t stop to think about is, “Does accreditation necessarily guarantee a quality education?”

Well, from my perspective, the best answer to that question is, that it could. I recall from quite a few years back that an admissions representative for a college in New Mexico wanted to get me enrolled in a Masters program, and his school was not accredited (translation: I would have to pay all tuition costs out of my pocket). His take on that issue was that, “Harvard isn’t accredited by anybody,” because they didn’t need to be. “After all,” he argued, “who could accredit Harvard University?”

I don’t know if what he was telling me at the time was the truth, but if you do some research on Harvard University today, you find that they are listed as being accredited by the New England Assocation of Colleges and Schools. And, if you do some research on this accrediting association, you find that it is located in Bedford, Massachusetts, which is 20 miles from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(By the way, in doing research on Harvard, you also find that one of Harvard Univeristy’s web sites is www.harvarduniversity.com , which drives home the point that I made earlier about any educational institution being a business.)

Hmmm….20 miles apart, huh….depending on how suspicious one was, one might wonder who really operates that association….even though they’re listed as being the accrediting body  for more than two-thousand schools, some of them vocational education schools. Well, I”m not one to ascribe to conspiracy theories, so I doubt that the accreditation process for Harvard University is a rubber stamp process….but I mention this idea to make a point.

If a school says they are accredited, your question should be “by whom?” And, once you get an answer to that question, ask what the accrediting body requires of the school in order to be awarded accreditation. Does it amount to only paying a fee? Or does it mean that team of curriculum experts visited the school, evaluated the lesson plans and instructors, and observed what goes on in the lab? If a team visited the school, did one of them follow up on the school’s placement records and confirm what they showed? Was there a member of the team who underst0od how to evaluate the financial aid practices of the school?

I realize that asking these questions of an admissions representative of a school could result in them looking at you as though you were from another planet, or, somebody might be downright insulted by being asked such questions, but I still think you should ask. After all, it’s your money, whether it comes in the form of a Pell Grant (which usually amounts to a maximum of $5,550.00 per year) or government gauranteed loans, or you pay your tuition out of your pocket.

If you’re going to invest the time, effort, and money into an HVACR education, you should approach it as you would when purchasing any product or service from any business.

Until next week.

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


Last week I made some points about becoming an HVACR technician and deciding on enrolling in either a private, for-profit trade school or a college that offers a state-sponsored, more academic program.  One way to look at these two types of programs is their approach to guiding you through a learning experience, and I’ll consider that point by using the example  teaching someone the skill of riding a bicycle.

For the most part, if you wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle and decided to attend a private, for-profit school to accomplish that objective, it’s likely that after enrolling and spending a class session in the morning getting information on the safety issues, and what to expect as far as accomplishing the skill of balancing on two wheels, you would then head for a lab experience after your lunch break where your instructor would give you your first hands-on lesson on riding a bicycle. Your first lab experience would likely begin with your instructor demonstrating how to accomplish your first assigned hands-on task on a stripped-down model or mock-up of a bicycle, providing more necessary information about the safety issues, and then giving you an opportunity to try it for yourself.  That’s not to say that you would be a skilled rider after only one short session in the lab.

Your only activity in this first lab sesson might involve only practicing going in a straight line in a very controlled indoor environment for short trips with an instructor pretty much glued to your side to make sure that you didn’t hurt yourself or others, or damage the equipment you would be using . And, with each subsequent class/lab day, you would be afforded the opportunity to understand more about the process of riding a bicycle from a functional perspective, covering whatever theory information the developers of the curriculum decided you need to know, then head for the lab again for more practice.

Once you successfully completed your trade school education, you would be an entry level bicycle rider, which means that you would qualify for a job under that definition. What that means is that you still need field experience and exposure to more types of bicycles (and situations regarding these specific bicycles) than you had the opportunity to work with during your tenure of a given number of hours in training at school….probably accomplished on a weekly schedule of about 30 to 35 hours per week, meaning you attended on a schedule similar to a full-time job…. between your lab and classroom experiences.  

Another way to look at this situation is that even though you have practiced in a controlled environment at school, you haven’t yet actually ridden a bicycle in real live traffic, dealing with all that goes along with that, so before you can be a revenue-producing entity for whoever hired you as a bicycle rider, you’ll need to hone your skills so you can be proficient at bicycle riding and not make mistakes that can cost money, alienate customers, or create a dangerous situation situation that will need to be corrected by somebody else.

If you chose to attend a more academic-based institution program, your experience would differ in several ways, and similar in others. First, your schedule would likely not be daily attendance, but instead, you would only be in class on two or maybe three days in a week and those class sessions would be less than two hours.

Second, you would not likely be introduced to the hands-on portion of your training on the same schedule as your trade school experience. Your certificate or degree program may require that you complete courses on basic aerodynamics so you will have a complete understanding of balance and what holds your bicycle up when you’re riding it.

Your pre-requisite requirements for enrolling in an upper division class on bicycle riding may also include basic metallurgy so you would be able to identify problems that could come about due to metal fatigue of your bicycle frame if it is not ridden according to operating specifications, or it’s used in an environment that creates a lot of wear and tear. Or, perhaps a course in the fundamentals of rubber manufacturing and air pressures applied to vehicle tires would be required so you would have a complete understanding of the pneumatics of your equipment and how tire wear affects the ability of your bicycle to operate safely and correctly.

Further into your learning experience, you would work with mock-ups or stripped down versions of bicycles so can develop your riding skills and practice what you need to know so you will quailify as an entry level bicycle rider. Which, like I said above, means you need to rack up the field experience before you’ll be a full-fledged bicycle rider.

Which program should you attend if you decided bicycle riding was what you wanted to do?

Well….and, I’m guessing you already know what I’m going to say here…..that’s up to you. Once you look at all the details of each program, and the institiution, etc….make a decision that’s right for you.

More next week….

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



I get phone calls almost every day of the week from folks who have very little knowledge of the heating and air conditioning industry, but are curious about whether or not it could be a career path for them. My short answer to their question is that I would absolutely recommend that they pursue HVACR as a career, whether they’re just out of high school, or if they’ve been doing something else for many years and they’re considering a second career. I’ve personally run thousands of service calls myself, and installed many systems, both in new construction and in retrofit situations, and can’t imagine that I would choose to do it differently if I was given a chance for a do-over. (Well, maybe there are some things I would do differently if I knew then what I know now, but I think that would apply to just about anybody in any profession) 

My long answer regarding how to get that done, though, can be, well….really long, because not everybody’s situation is the same, and that means they may pursue different paths to learning what they need to know about troubleshooting electrical systems in furnaces and air conditioners, or evaluating and troubleshooting refrigeration systems. And, no matter how many parts this post series winds up to be, I’ll likely not cover it all for everybody either. So, let me just say a few things in general about getting trained as an HVACR technician.

First and foremost, whatever path you’re thinking of taking, or if you’re considering how much money you might wind up spending, stop thinking of it as taking time or spending money. Going to school, be it a trade school or a community college, shouldn’t be described as ‘taking time’ or ‘spending money’. It should be considered as an investment. Yes, training is an investment, not an expense.

With that said (I’m sure I’ll rant more about that point sometime later), I’ll give some consideration to making the choice between a trade school and a community college. In answer to somebody’s question, “which one should I choose?, my answer is, “Either one, depending on what you think is best for you”. I”ve worked extensively as an instructor in both environments….the proprietary school, meaning, ‘privately owned’ or ‘for profit’ and the community college, meaning taking a more ‘academic’ approach to HVAC….and, as you would expect in any situation, I’ve seen and experienced both positive and negative things in both kinds of training environments.

I’ve seen private schools that, like any reputable business, always do their best to do the right thing (read it….spend the money they’re supposed to spend) to provide the best training they can for their customer, and I’ve seen some private schools that shouldn’t be in business; with the end result being one graduate who can do a great job, and another who can barely function. I’ve seen some community colleges that do a good job of turning out a technician who can function as a high-level, revenue-producing troubleshooting and repair person, and I’ve seen some graduates who can quote theory, but, as my Dad used to say, “don’t know which end of a wrench to grab a hold of”.

Now, before I start getting angry e-mails from instructors and administrators in schools everywhere with a vertible plethora of upper case words and sentences, some of which may even question my parentage on both my maternal and paternal sides, along with comments on their opinion of my obviously pathetic IQ, let me say right up front I am absolutely convinced that the student/school relationship  is a 50/50 deal when it comes to turning out a graduate that can function as the training program intends. If a person doesn’t approach going to school with interest, effort, dedication, and persistence (no matter how difficult it gets), then the school isn’t to blame for a defective ‘end product’.

So, with that said, the first thing I want to point out about going to a private school to learn HVAC, or attending a community college certificate or degree program, is this: Whether anybody likes to admit it or not, they’re both businesses. And, as a business, they’ve got costs to cover, and those costs have to be covered by revenue…..revenue that is generated by ‘asses in the classes’ as some in the education business have been known to say. For most people, this idea is easy to understand when it comes to private, for-profit schools, but more difficult to grasp for a public school like a community college or other state-run school. Well, there are four letters that help you understand about revenue in the hallowed halls of a public institution…..F   T  S  E  ……generally pronounced “footsie”.

It stands for Full Time Student Equivalent, and it works like this: In a given semester, or school term, or whatever an individual learning institution refers to it as, the state that provides the funding for part of the school’s operation looks at their F  T  S  E count and then determines how much money they’ll provide. One F  T  S E  is equal to 12 credit hours. And an F  T  S  E  can be worth in the neighborhood of $800 (or more) to a school. So, what that means is, that if you enrolled in a 3-credit hour class along with three other people, then the four of you would make up one F  T  S  E  (4 x 3 = 12), which would generate the accompanying revenue that the college would get for the four of you for that semester. Typically, this funding can cover up to about two-thirds of what it really costs to have a student in a class, with the last third of the cost being covered by tuition fees. In some cases, the numbers may differ, but the concept is the same. The majority of the money that covers the cost of doing business for a state-run school comes from tax revenues, and the balance comes from the students.

I mention this to make my point that all schools, public or private, have to pay salaries, pay for supplies, etc…so both of them should be considered a business when it comes to making a choice about which one to attend.

(A note to HVACR instructors everywhere……If you’ve got a better way of explaining what I’ve been talking about here, please post your comment. I believe that the purpose of a blog is to inform and educate, and not mis-inform. So that means we all have to be open to the idea that there’s more than one way to present information, and I’d be happy to consider your thoughts and opinions on this subject.)

Until next week…..

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



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