One of the interesting things about being in the HVACR industry and active in the technical and professional development of technicians is that you never know what inspiration will come about when you’re working on your blog. This is the fourth segment in a series on in-house training programs, and up until I read a Linked-In post by D. Brian Baker about how some people with an academic bent view the education process for trades and crafts, I had a different idea of what this installment would be about. Since I happened upon that discussion, this segment will be about what I read there.
The discussion that Brian started was about the academic community, and some of the comments that followed offered enlightening thoughts about how some think that the difference between an academic education and a trade/craft education is that with academics, people are taught to think, while in the trade/craft approach of “training” (as opposed to educating and training, which is what we in the industry consider it to be) is that people are just taught to, well, just do.
Reading some of the comments on this particular discussion, I remembered a few things…..
As somebody who ran service calls in residential and light commercial applications for many years where customer contact is on a very personal level since technicians are guests in customer’s homes (and some of their small offices that they consider to be a second home), I can attest to the fact that there are two types of customers when it comes to interaction with those who are there to provide a technical or craft service for them. One type is quick to engage in an interchange of mutual respect. A second type of person has a tendency to, as we say “look down their nose” at others. And, in accordance with the aforementioned discussion on the sometimes perceived differences between an academic and skilled craft education, it was, in my experience, that those of the second type were, far more often than not, those who either held an academic degree and worked in what could be commonly referred to as a ‘white collar’ job, or they were married to someone who held an academic degree and worked in a white collar job.
The common term that is often applied to people who act toward others in the way I’ve described is that they are a snob.
And, when I thought about that, I recalled a bit of history on the origin of that term. It came about early in the 18th century as “Sine Nobilia” ( a Latin term that means “not of nobility”) when university professors in Europe were told that they would have to offer admission to some that they considered to be lower class. This term was entered into the margin next to the person’s name in the student registry so they could be easily identified. My personal opinion is that it was noted there so professors could get ‘what they expected’ from these students, and also be able to, when one of these students dropped out, be able to say, “See I told you so” to the entities that were forcing these enrollments.
Well, as it often happens with this sort of thing, it didn’t take long for “sine nobilia” to be shortened to “snob”, and here’s where it gets even more interesting.
When some of these ‘lower class’ individuals did graduate from college in spite of what the professors thought about them, they often had a tendency to, well, treat the people in the communities that they came from differently than they treated them before they went off to school. And the term “snob” took on a new meaning….what we normally think about it today.
And, if you’ve been wondering what all this has to do with your in-house technician training program, here’s the thought that followed what I’ve noted above.
I often have to shake my head about the fact that even today, I have technicians who attend a training workshop, and in the course of our discussions on customer service, tell me that they have negative and disrespectful experiences in which people ‘look down their nose’ at them, and it bothers them.
My response to this is a simple two-point approach.
1. One of the classic behaviors of a person with low self esteem is that, because they are unhappy with who or what they are (or aren’t), they try to make themselves feel better by putting others down.
2. When this occurs, we should have compassion for these unfortunate individuals rather than be angry or upset because of their behavior. And the reason we should take that approach is that, because we’re human, we could wind up taking some of that negative energy with us to our next call. And our customer there doesn’t deserve anything less than the best we have to offer, not just from a technical and craft approach to doing our job, but also from a customer service perspective.
Learn From Yesterday……Live For Today…..Look Forward To Tomorrow
More On The Perspective of Fundamentals
Beyond the understanding that new hires or installers in training to move up to service need to have a good grasp of the fundamentals of electricity, refrigeration and psychrometrics, there’s another consideration regarding this subject…..experienced technicians and a review of the basic concepts of HVACR that will help them in the continued development of their troubleshooting skills.
As a service manager facilitating an in-house training session on this subject, we need to be aware of two important issues. The first, of course, is that we need to be creative in our approach to presenting the basic concepts of how to read wiring diagrams, troubleshoot and test components, calculate superheat and subcooling, and perform static pressure tests as part of evaluating the air flow in a system. What we ultimately want to see is the experienced technician paying attention, participating, nodding in agreement and, when prompted, even contribute information on the subject at hand in order to help bring along those in attendance who are less experienced. That would be an ideal situation; a productive training session that contributes to the professional development of everybody in attendance.
Your operation running smooth.
Yes, that would be ideal, and sometimes, getting there means that we need to be aware of a second issue, and deal with it effectively. I’m talking about technicians who have been in the field for a number of years, and the possibility that they may not be as excited as you are to have them in your fundamentals training session. There could be a variety of reasons for this. Perhaps somebody who has been ‘out there’ for five years would look upon the hour spent as a waste of time, especially if they were facing a busy workday. If that’s the case, it could derail your ideal training session described above. Instead of a pleasant experience for everyone, somebody could be sitting there, arms folded, noting the time at frequent intervals, barely tolerating the experience until it will finally be over.
A situation like this not only affects you because you’re looking right at it, but the negativity, even if it’s subtle, can become pervasive, having an effect on everyone attending the session and all the subject matter being discussed. So, how would you anticipate this possibility and handle it?
One thing to consider is that if an experienced technician takes the time to contact you prior to the training to say that since it’s a fundamentals session, they would just as soon pass on attending, tread lightly. Simply dismissing their stated opinion out-of-hand and saying that the session is arbitrary, for example, is not going to be a productive route to take in this situation. My reasoning behind this is simple. I’ve been in situations where a technician may say that they have “5 years of experience” working in HVACR, when in reality, what’s closer to correct is that they have “1 year of experience 5 times over”. And, since our responsibility as a service manager and trainer is to make every effort to coach, lead, and contribute to the professional development of those who report to us, we need to anticipate this possibility and, as I said above, be creative in our approach to presenting the basic concepts, no matter who is attending our session.
Learn From Yesterday….Live For Today….Look Forward To Tomorrow
In-house training programs for HVACR technicians can be broken down into three categories. First, there’s the process of bringing on new hires, or bringing someone up from installation to service, and making sure that this group has the fundamentals training they need in order to become an effective service technician. Second, there’s the seasoned technician who needs to be brought up-to-date on new developments and the equipment changes that are a result of that ever-evolving process in the HVAC industry. And, the third category applies to both of these groups…. their professional development from the perspective of interpersonal skills; customer service and communication skills, and, of course, sales skills.
A Fundamentals Perspective
One of the major challenges that service managers and contractors deal with when training a new technician is what I refer to as haphazard experiences. What I mean by this is that when a technician in training is assigned to ride along on service calls, the experiences are haphazard simply because of the way a technician’s service day rolls out. The first call of the day may be a package unit heat pump with an air flow or refrigeration system problem. The second one can be a split system that employs a gas furnace as an air handler, and the third can be another type of system, etc….etc…. throughout the day. And regardless of how effective a senior technician is at explaining specific components, test procedures, and replacement of a failed part, a significant percentage of the learning comes about in fits and starts, which means that for the trainee, it can be a jumble.
To keep the confusion that is a characteristic of the field training experience, your trainee needs structure. A training program that provides a logical sequence of the absolute fundamentals of electricity, refrigeration, and air flow, and serves two purposes: First, to eliminate the mystery behind things like current flow and the laws of thermodynamics, and second, to give trainees someplace to put the mountain of information that comes their way on a daily basis.
When it comes to lesson content regarding electrical fundamentals, the topics that help a new technician bring it all together are these:
…Electrical generating stations and the electrical grid
…Fundamentals of conductors, semi-conductors and insulators
…Schematic symbols and the structure of wiring diagrams
…Component identification and tracing circuits, the difference between loads and switches
…Proper use of test instruments and electrical safety, voltage, resistance, and amperage measurements
On the refrigeration side:
…Fundamental laws of thermodynamics that allow refrigeration systems to transfer heat
…The four basic components of any refrigeration system
…The refrigeration cycle and the state of the refrigerant as it enters and exits components
…Refrigerants and oils
…The temperature-pressure relationship between refrigerants and temperature/pressure charts
…Evacuation, dehydration and refrigerant recovery procedures
…The relationship between refrigeration system operation and proper indoor and outdoor air flow
…Proper use of gauges and coil temperature splits
…Fundamentals of superheat and subcooling
And, when it comes to air flow:
…Properties of air
…Psychrometric charts and how they illustrate basic heating and cooling processes
…Air volume and velocity, and static pressure in a duct system
…Air flow measurement devices
With these very fundamental topics covered in your in-house training program, you’ve laid the foundation for further study on the more detailed subjects of HVACR system performance, electrical and refrigeration system evaluation and troubleshooting, and how to use manufacturer specific information regarding servicing and troubleshooting procedures.
We’ll continue our discussion on this subject in Part Two.
Learn from yesterday….Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow