by Howard Weiss
HVAC Excellence welcomed a crowd of nearly 800 for the thirteenth annual National HVACR Educators and Trainers Conference, March 3rd - 5th at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev. The conference provided a forum for HVACR instructors to obtain specialized training to keep their programs current and become more effective instructors.
Does it feel like technological advances in the HVACR industry are being made faster than ever? The reason for this feeling is simple. They are! This alarmingly rapid rate of change requires us, as educators, to change as well. We must constantly re-evaluate what and how we teach to ensure that the training we offer remains aligned with what the industry requires from successful field technicians.
Equally important, HVACR instructors need to adapt to the learning styles of generation Z to successfully recruit and train them. Standing still today is not an option! That is why HVAC Excellence hosts this annual event.
During their keynote presentation, Richard Benkowski and Laura Ceja, both representing the United Association (UA), affirmed that the industry must embrace change to effectively recruit, engage and train the next generation of HVACR technicians. To illustrate how quickly changes are occurring, they compared the timeframes during which various technologies and platforms reached 50 million users. While it took the airplane 68 years and the automobile 62 years to reach the 50 million user level, it took desktop computing only 14 years, the cell phone only 12 years, Facebook only 3 years, and “Pokemon Go” only 19 days. The introduction of new technologies requires that we all adapt or face the very real possibility of becoming obsolete.
One very real challenge facing the industry is that HVACR instructors must now teach technologies that they themselves never encountered when they were in the field. Additionally, to be an effective instructor, they need a solid understanding of the physics and theories on which the HVACR industry is based.
To assist instructors in meeting the challenges associated with incorporating emerging technologies and teaching techniques in their classrooms, while assisting them gain confidence teaching the basics, over 70 lecture and hands-on breakout sessions were offered.
One key area of interest to all in attendance was inverter-driven technologies. Ductless mini-split systems and variable capacity systems comprise one of the fastest growing segments in the HVACR industry. To help attendees traverse these technologies, and incorporate them into their training, Daikin, Fujitsu and Mitsubishi offered several lecture and hands-on sessions. Those who attended all three of the Fujitsu sessions, or the full-day Daikin event, received a number of training resources, otherwise unavailable to instructors. These proprietary training materials will help instructors better understand the technologies required to successfully teach inverter-driven technologies.
As if 70+ plus sessions were not enough to keep one busy, attendees were able to meet with organizations showcasing the latest in training resources during the HVACR exposition. The exposition provided an opportunity to learn about: equipment, tools, test instruments, educational trainers, curriculum, assessments, chemicals, and much more from industry leading companies. Taking place at center stage of the exposition hall was an instructor’s contest, that enabled attendees to showcase their knowledge and skills. Taking the gold in the competition was Seth LaRiviere, a service trainer from Macdonald-Miller and Company, located in Kent, WA. In total, nearly $40,000 in prizes were given away, providing those who participated in the contest and/or walked the exhibit hall access to some free resources to assist them with the training they offer.
To help attendees identify areas where professional development is needed, HVAC Excellence offered their specialized educator credentialing exams to all conference attendees, free of charge. Passing a standardized teacher certification exam is a basic requirement for employment as a teacher in most states. Similarly, states and schools needed a standardized measurement of a job applicant’s knowledge and readiness to be an HVACR instructor, regardless of institution, or location. The HVAC Excellence Educator Credentialing Exams is a series of written exams written specifically for HVACR instructors. The discipline-specific examinations identify if an instructor possesses mastery of specific fundamental content areas they will be teaching, or if they need additional training in that area. As these exams are challenging, HVAC Excellence took time during a general session to recognize those who have passed these exams since last year’s conference. In addition, instructors who passed seven specific educator credentialing exams since last year’s conference were recognized on stage, having the title of Certified Master HVACR Educator (CMHE) bestowed upon them.
Because HVACR educational programs must adapt to remain relevant, some HVACR training institutions opt to obtain industry-recognized, programmatic accreditation through an independent, third party that validates the training they offer. Since everyone is the benefactor or victim of the training they receive, the accreditation process verifies that HVACR educational programs have the equipment, tools, resources and administrative support to successfully prepare students for entry level positions in this ever-changing industry. To recognize the accomplishments of the 22 schools granted HVAC Excellence accredited within the past year, Dr. James Crisp of HVAC Excellence recognized these programs for their accomplishment in front of a national audience of their peers. These schools have voluntarily decided to undergo a process that helps us quickly identify their HVACR programs as ones that meet or exceed nationally-established standards.
With another conference having concluded, it is now time to start preparing for the 2020 conference, being held March 23-25, 2020 at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. One again, this annual event hosted by HVAC Excellence, co-sponsored by ESCO Institute and Hampden Engineering, will seek everyone’s assistance to unite the HVACR industry around education.
Learn more about the National HVACR Educators and Trainers Conference at www.escogroup.org and clicking the conference link.
HVAC Excellence was established in 1994 to improve the technical competency of the HVACR industry through validation of the technical education process. By setting program standards and verifying that they have been met, we can meet the challenges facing our industry by continuous improvement in the way that we prepare technicians.
Howard Weiss is executive vice president of ESCO Group.