Career Day Brings The World Of HVAC To 400 Ninth-Graders

March 1, 2003
Many contractors are concerned about the technician shortage and the looming possibility that the HVAC industry will not be able to attract enough talented

Many contractors are concerned about the technician shortage and the looming possibility that the HVAC industry will not be able to attract enough talented people to meet the country’s needs in coming years. Seaman’s Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, Inc., is doing something about it. The Grand Rapids, MI-based commercial contractor recently completed its second career day with ninth-grade students from the Kentwood Public Schools. More than 400 students visited nine stations set up by Seaman’s associates at the East Kentwood Freshman Campus, and got a first-hand look at some of the interesting careers the HVAC industry offers. Combined with the ninth-grade and high school students who attended the first career day in December 2002, Seaman’s has given more than 900 students a look into the world of HVAC. The interactive stations included heating, welding, sheet metal, air flow measurement, CAD, refrigeration theory, applied refrigeration, and an ice machine. Over the course of the day, each station did about 64 presentations. “Instead of just talking to the kids, we decided to show them what it’s all about,” said Seaman’s President Randy Seaman. “We wanted to let the kids see some of the opportunities that exist within our industry.” In addition to the demonstrations, the ninth-graders also received a hand-out listing jobs, job descriptions, and salary ranges for positions in the HVAC industry. Ferris State University, which offers a four-year degree in HVACR, and the Kent Career Technical Career Center, which offers two two-year degrees, also took part in the event. Students enrolled in the HVAC programs at the two schools assisted with many of the demonstrations. Cheryl Lester, a freshman focus teacher in the Kentwood School District, praised Seaman’s and the career day. “Having Seaman’s people here to demonstrate and explain everything is really the key,” she says. “It really gives the kids a conception of the mix of technology and business all existing within one industry.” Michael Feutz, chairman of the HVACR department at Ferris State, said getting a message to the kids while they’re freshman is important. “Although they’re too young to make career decisions, we can plant the seed,” he said. “Out of every group that we bring through there’s one bright-eyed student.” The Seaman’s associates, despite being tired and hoarse by the end of the day, also enjoyed spreading the word about the world of HVAC to the students. “Our industry has changed so much in such a short time, that the kids really need to know about the opportunities we offer for them to work with technology and electronics,” said Seaman’s Jeff Block. He also talked to the students about the career path he took from the military to residential service technician and up to his current position as sales engineer. C.J. Fox, was running the CAD demonstration. He has worked at Seaman’s for about nine months while he pursues an engineering degree at Grand Valley State University. “Most of the kids are interested, first and foremost, in how much money they can make in the industry,” he said, “But they also think the Auto CAD is pretty cool.” Randy Seaman, who believes in lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness, said he thinks contractors across the country could do themselves a big favor by starting these types of programs in their own communities. “We’re not the biggest contractor, and, sure, it costs us a little money to bring our people out here for a day,” he said. “But you’ve got to look at the big picture. If we can get these kids interested and maybe have a few end up working in HVAC, it’s a lot better than standing around wringing our hands about the shortage of quality people in our industry.” Randy Seaman and Patti Van Kuiken, Seaman’s assistant general manager say they’d be happy to share their experience with other contractors who would be interested in setting up similar career days in their local areas. Call 616/458-1544.