By the end of April 2021, job openings rose to an unprecedented 9.3 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Service industries such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration are included with those trades wading through the waters of low-level employee pools.
In an effort to hire more ice technicians amid the employee shortage and help those looking to have a career in the HVACR industry, national ice machine subscription company, Easy Ice has partnered with the long-established Emily Griffith Technical College, based in Denver, Colo., to take students on ride-alongs with Easy Ice technicians, to help them gain real-world experience and insight into refrigeration opportunities. Easy Ice operates under three brands: Ice Masters in Kansas and Missouri; Automatic Icemakers in Chicago; Polar Ice in Denver; and Easy Ice in all other cities and states.
HINT, HINT: The college is always in need of equipment donations for training purposes.
The ride-alongs were started by Dustin Ferrel, a branch manager and 24-year employee of Polar Ice, who initiated the program with Matthew Langan, the new refrigeration instructor at Emily Griffith Technical College. Langan has 25-years of experience in mechanical contracting, and has a business that services commercial, industrial and cold storage refrigeration systems. The school is his main focus at this time. He conducts training with one additional instructor, and will soon be hiring an assistant.
"We try to prioritize second-year students, since they will be leaving school soon and looking for a career, but we will extend it to first-year students if time permits. We put extra effort into getting more ride-alongs going before graduation." Eight ride-alongs were conducted from May to July of this year, with second-year students. Some have lined up interviews with employers.
"Polar Ice would like to hire as many as possible," Ferrel said. "We have to do a fair amount of training, so we will take on as many as we can and keep them coming up through the program. We’ve hired two this summer who were part of the ride-along program, and we feel they have a good idea of what we do as a company and are very interested in working for us. Our hope is that it will provide long-term employment."
A ride-along is usually a day-long event, and Polar Ice tries to put together a comprehensive sampling of what a technician tackles in any given day.
"They may end up helping install an ice machine, or observe a refrigeration repair. For commercial ice machines it may be in the food industry, which is one of our larger bases, however, we’re also in hotels, health care, bars, and office buildings. They could be stepping in to a whole host of environments, with reach-in units and larger," Ferrel explained. "The few that we've hired have been great additions to the team."
Polar Ice sources described the added job security provided by essential service industries, especially during times such as the COVID pandemic. According to The Bureau of Labor statistics, only 35 percent of American adults have a bachelor’s degree and more than a third of college graduates are working in jobs that don’t require one. Those who are able to show their technical skills and expertise in the essential service industries can find success through alternative routes like trade schools.
The entire EGTC HVACR curriculum includes:
Safety Training for the Trades
Electricity for HVACR
Fundamentals of Gas Heating
Refrigerant Recovery Training
Residential Air Conditioning
Residential HVAC Troubleshooting
Hot Water Heating Systems
AC Systems Service & Repair
Direct Digital Controls
Building Automation II, Service
Langan said the college is always in need of some additional training equipment.
"I've been wanting a condensing boiler and furnaces. Controls are always useful -- anything from thermostats to digital controllers. Also, training materials and tools. Some of this is obsolete equipment. The list is long."