In the arena of credentialing, validation and assessment of HVACR programs and courses, it's important to focus on the fact that there’s only one organization that is fully industry sponsored and endorsed and that organization is the Partnership for HVACR Accreditation (PAHRA).
Now in its 14 year, PAHRA's purpose is to improve the quality of training offered at all levels of education by meeting or exceeding established industry standards in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) industry. Through the PAHRA program, employers of HVACR graduates are assured that their students have met minimum competency levels required for graduation and certification, as determined by the HVACR industry associations. In other words, the future employers of current students are setting the competency levels.
How PAHRA was Developed
The sponsors of PAHRA formed a broad-based, industry driven and endorsed accreditation program. The originators and partners thought of it as the GOOD process – governed, owned, operated and developed by the practitioners in the HVAR industry who have the practical, professional and ethical insights to develop and maintain an important program like accreditation. A good accreditation program, one that is rooted in the industry, is the foundation for all of PAHRA’s endeavors.
PAHRA’s goals are clearly set, regularly measured and reviewed by the industry and established with input from instructors and program administrators. Among PAHRA's goals are (1.) to set standards for instructors, students, curriculum competencies, facilities and fiscal responsibility, (2.) establish evaluation criteria, (3.) use validated standards and criteria from HVACR industry and education associations, (4.) promote training program self-evaluation, (5.) provide on-site evaluation and (6.) award accreditation to programs that meet or exceed standards.
Criteria Used by PAHRA
The PAHRA criterion establishes a systematic approach for the program to assess instructional usefulness, and stimulate continued planned growth. Criteria for the assessment establish the important benchmarks that create the program profile. A school seeking accreditation voluntarily accepts the criteria for comparing its HVACR program to national standards established by the industry.
Benefits of PAHRA Accreditation
There are many benefits for schools which earn the industry-recognized PAHRA accreditation. When a school has proved itself to be up to par with industry standards through their PAHRA recognition, more funding is readily available to help the HVACR department live up to higher expectations. HVACR manufacturers are encouraged to donate equipment to PAHRA accredited programs and PAHRA accreditation benefits the students. Students have more appeal in the industry when employers see they are graduating from an HVACR program that’s accredited in a program that is designed and supported across the wide spectrum of the industry.
Three Categories of PAHRA Accreditation
A program can seek PAHRA accreditation in 1, 2 or all 3 of the following categories:
- Residential air conditioning and heating
- Light commercial air conditioning and heating
- Commercial refrigeration.
Initial Self Study
PAHRA documentation is sent to the school so that the program can begin its self evaluation. A self-evaluation is an assessment of the HVACR Program following HVACR industry recognized and endorsed standards conducted by the HVACR staff and the administration of the HVACR training facility. The self-evaluation provides an opportunity for the HVACR program to examine itself, recognize the program strengths and realize the program weaknesses. The accreditation standards articles provide a framework for all HVACR programs to perform this evaluation and provide its findings and recommendations. Detailed information on the self-evaluation process is provided once a program has completed the application process.
After the program has submitted its findings in the self-study report, a team of PAHRA professionals reviews the self-study for completeness and adherence to the standards. Then a site evaluation team is assembled under the jurisdiction of a site evaluation team leader.
Site Evaluation Team
The site evaluation team leader (SETL) is an educator who has been trained by PAHRA to coordinate the evaluation. The SETL is assigned by PAHRA once the program has been approved for on-site evaluation. Site evaluation team members (SETM) are recruited by the program seeking evaluation and must currently be working in the HVACR industry as a technician, supervisor, owner or other industry professional. In addition they must have a high school diploma (or equivalent) and have a minimum of five years of experience as a full time HVACR industry professional. The program seeking accreditation makes every effort to select the SETM from a cross section of industry representatives within their local area. SETM may not have been graduates, instructors, or an administrator of the program seeking accreditation within the last seven years. A minimum of two SETMs are needed for the site evaluation. The maximum permitted SETMs is four. SETMs must be present for the entire two day site evaluation process.
Results Determined by PAHRA Accreditation Committee
The PAHRA Accreditation Committee reports its determination within six months of receiving the documents from the site evaluation team and once all expenses and fees have been paid. PAHRA accreditation is valid for five years from the date the accreditation certificate is issued.
What Happens after PAHRA Accreditation is Earned
When a program earns PAHRA accreditedation, the program receives local and national attention through press releases, newspaper and magazine articles and television news reports. The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) also distributes news releases promoting PAHRA accredited programs to more than 2,000 news and media sources. And finally, a large plaque bearing the seal of PAHRA and the schools’ name will be awarded to a program receiving PAHRA accreditation. The plaque will identify the areas of accreditation for the program.
PAHRA's Partnership with Educators and Programs
Among PAHRA's annual events is the HVACR Instructor Workshop, which is sponsored fully by the full spectrum of industry associations, 100% designed and developed by educators in the HVACR industry, and is offered at no registration fee to classroom instructors. The 2012 HVACR Instructor Workshop is taking place March 12-14 at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs.
It's again important to remember that the HVACR Instructor Workshop is the ONLY not-for-profit workshop devoted solely to providing first-class educational and networking opportunities for the men and women in our industry who are committed to educating the workforce of tomorrow and that PAHRA is the only not-for-profit industry educational program accreditation program.
For additional information on PAHRA, please visit http://pahrahvacr.org.
Warren B Lupson has been involved in the HVACR industry for over 49 years. He is presently Director of Education for The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). He is an adjunct at Montgomery College in Maryland since 1990 and is a Board member of PAHRA. He is a member of ASHRAE, International Code Council, Associations of Career and Technical Education, RSES, ASTD, ACCA, and SkillsUSA.