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