I present approximately six to 10 business workshops every month. During these workshops, I spend some of the time using data from the class to determine the average costs per hour for the attendees of my workshop. I ask the class how many days per year do your technicians and installers attend meetings or training classes.
Unfortunately the answer I usually get is zero to two. In response, I facetiously compliment them on being fully qualified and knowledgeable in every aspect of their job and that they will rarely need to learn anything new.
Not all contractors approach training this way. I've worked with some businesses who schedule at least two days or more of training for their people every month. Those training-aware contractors are very successful, and consistently profitable.
For example, regarding indoor air quality (IAQ), I find that many HVAC professionals limit their IAQ education to the last IAQ sales pitch they listened to at their last distributor meeting. For some of them, their only IAQ education is based on something they read in a brochure.
I encourage you to take the time and money and invest in some real education. Again, for the IAQ market, the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA.org) and National Comfort Institute (nationalcomfortinstitute.com) offer programs and certification courses that will give you the information you need to properly resolve many IAQ and home comfort problems.
If you're not interested in investing the time or money to attend a school or workshop, there are numerous online resources available, including the following that I recommend: HVACtraining.com; HVACReducation.net; ACCA.org; RSES.org; and ASHRAE.org. Any of these websites and/or organizations provide a variety of programs, information, and resources to improve the skills and knowledge of HVACR professionals.
Conduct Some Assessments Prior to Web Training
Before going to a specific website and signing up for any random program, take the time to perform a needs assessment. Determine the specific program or training that would give you the best return on your investment.
For example, let's say you have an individual who is basically performing well, but needs some refreshers in electrical troubleshooting skills. I would go to HVACtraining.com, click on "Learn HVAC online" and select the "Electricity for the HVACR Technician." This is a 36-hour, self-paced course. There are similar courses available at HVACReducation.net.
It's important to remember, however, that online training will not give you the "real world, hands-on" skills that are found in classroom or field-based, peer group training. And, since people learn in different ways, some can read a book and become proficient, while others may have to physically or personally experience something before it becomes a skill.
Many online learning organizations have done much to simulate "real-world" examples, but it's still not real world. Online training will be more informational and theory based, however it may help to fill in the blanks for someone who has learned by doing, but never really understood the fundamentals. Similar to the parts changer I mentioned earlier, if this person has some fundamental knowledge of the theory behind electrical circuits, his troubleshooting style would be improved by completing an online course.
It's important that HVAC contractors become whole-house environmental and energy efficiency experts. Online training, supplemented by real-world applications or classroom training, will bring big returns. Right now, you're the only group that most people turn to for help.
Frank Besednjak is president/CEO of Training Source, Inc., Louisville, KY. He is a nationally-known speaker, trainer, consultant and coach. He has been a presenter at HVAC Comfortech. He can be reached at 888/538-5383.
Training Essential in Age of Energy
Chris Compton — founder of HVACRedu.net, a leading online industry education provider says the HVACR industry needs a revolution in training, and that revolution must include online learning. During a presentation to educators attending the HVAC Excellence Educators’ Conference in March, 2011, Compton encouraged teachers and contractors to use online training for all it’s worth.
"Access makes online training work," Compton says. "It removes barriers to attendance, increases outreach to student populations, and lowers the cost for students, and for schools."
Compton says online training is an opportunity to engage students on their terms. "Online learning is a lifestye issue. Young adults and the 30- to 50-something crowd are sold on it, prefer it, and want it," he says, "and it's guaranteed to increase."
Compton says Internet technology allows teachers to accessorize training in a variety of ways, with images, charts and tables, video clips, simulations, web conferencing, and relevant links (just make sure the links are good).
Compton says the deeper and more critical issue is based on the need for improved energy efficiency standards by HVACR contractors. He says the majority of HVACR practitioners are lacking in fundamental training.
"You can't do anything in this business unless you know the fundamentals of how it works. The HVACR workforce has an extremely poor understanding of all the fundamental stuff that goes along with the job," he says.
"As our energy situation becomes more serious, and more critical to the U.S., technicians need to have the knowledge to do the job correctly," he says. "Our training and competency level is abysmal. Educators and contractors I talk to say the level of HVACR competency is ugly. Now's the time to suck it up and get going."
Compton specializes in helping contractors and schools establish online training sites. He can be reached by email, at [email protected].
Online Training Materials: a Sampling
Jackson Systems' 'Contractor Central' section of the company's website — jsu.jacksonsystems.com — provides access to "Jackson Systems University," for zone control certification.
ACCA's Comfort U — www.acca.org/education/online — provides more than 100 different on-demand webinars, usually about 60-90 minutes in length, created exclusively for ACCA Comfort U.
Education Portal — http://bit.ly/hvacportal — provides a long list of various online learning opportunities, including NATE, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), Air-Conditioning, Refrigration, and Heating Institute (AHRI), and ACCA.
North American Technician Excellence (NATE) — http://bit.ly/NATEtrainingmaterials — provides information on Knowledge Areas of Technician Excellence (KATEs), as well as links to other HVACR training resources.
Honeywell's Environmental & Combustion Controls Residential businesses offer world-class training solutions at www.forwardthinking.honeywell.com/training.
Carrier University — www.carrieruniversity.com — provides training courses for architects, building owners, consulting/specifying engineers, contractors, developers, facility managers, and HVAC instructors.
HVAC Education — http://hvaced.com/hvac-training/ — provides information on the nature of HVAC work, employment information, information on training, certifications, qualifications, and more.
Rheem Total Access Training — www.thetrainingnetwork.com — is an online, multimedia training component, with courses for contractors and technicians that address seasonal climate issues and environmentally-friendly solutions.
Service Roundtable — www.serviceroundtable.com — a true original, designed to be a low-cost Internet source for learning, based on a peer-to-peer support network.