There are realities in everything. And when it comes to learning the HVACR craft and being in the HVACR business, one of the realities that needs to be understood is the relationship between going to school and working in the field. And, these realties need to be understood from two viewpoints; that of the student, and of the employer who hires graduates.
The absolute, #1 hot-button issue for contractors and training program graduates is the rate of pay a new hire can expect, so, for those who are either in an HVAC training program or considering going to school, I’m going to tell it like it is in regard to the issue of wages….what a person can expect to earn on their first job.
To put it simply: Yes, there are HVACR technicians who earn what we often refer to in the United States as “Journeyman” wages.
This term, which describes a person with some experience in a given craft, originated in Europe, and referred specifically to an individual who was in the process of becoming a “Master”. The idea was that in order to become a master craftsman, the journeyman would have to wander from one town to another in order to gain experience in different workshops related to his craft. The tradition is still in place today in some parts of Germany related to the carpentry trade.
The point here is that the Journeyman didn’t reach Master status until he had wandered from place to place for a given amount of time and gained the experience that can only be gained by wandering around the countryside, connecting with different masters, all of whom had different experiences, points-of-view, and information to pass on during the time the person learning the craft spent with them. All these varied experiences with different masters, when combined over time, allowed the Journeyman to hone his skills and become proficient….meaning that, in the end, he would able to accomplish the tasks related to his craft without error, and the end product that he produced would be of a high quality, serving its purpose for many years to come.
In the HVACR industry, it’s the same process. In order to reach the level at which a journeyman level technician provides value to an employer that warrants the top level of wages earned, it takes time, and it means having varied experiences with different makes and models of equipment, and different situations, and different applications in different buildings, and different objectives being accomplished with different types of refrigeration systems, etc, etc, etc….
And to again put it simply: the wide variety of necessary stuff that no school or training program, no matter how complete it is, can accomplish.
Which means, that as an aspiring HVACR technician, it’s your responsibility to find out what the “realities” are about the wages you can expect to earn as an entry-level technician. And, the only way you are going to get a complete picture of that reality is to invest the necessary time and effort it takes to contact a significant number of employers….kind of like ‘wandering’ and getting many different points-of-view…. before you commit to a training program.
Is this going to be nothing but easy for you to do? No, it won’t.
Will you likely to get some bad information from some people? Yes you will.
But, in the same way in which it takes persistence to become proficient in a craft, it takes persistence in order to make good decisions about your career. So, don’t give up on getting information if somebody says they’re too busy to talk to you, and don’t let one person’s opinion be the one factor that affects your decision to get into the HVACR industry. Talk to many different employers. Find out how to get in touch with your nearby chapter of RSES (Refrigeration Service Engineers Society at www.rses.org) so you can attend a meeting as a guest and ask questions. Do whatever you need to do until you’re satisfied that you have all the information you need in order to make an informed decision.
More on this issue in Part Two….
Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow