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Fast Track to HVAC Employment

Hobaica Services’ accelerated apprentice program develops HVAC technicians and service professionals for its many divisions.

When Paul Hobaica started Hobaica Refrigeration in 1952, he chose to do so in his home town of Phoenix. An Army vet who served in World War II, he took advantage of the GI Bill after the war and enrolled in refrigeration and business classes at Phoenix College. He worked for a few small refrigeration companies before embarking on his own.

As his company grew, he added air-conditioning to his list of services, but finding skilled labor was a challenge. So, he created his own with his seven children. All seven of his children were expected to work in the family business and do their part. In 1989, brothers Lou and Paul Hobaica convinced their father to retire and they bought the company from him.

"Paul had an engineering degree, and I had a business degree; back then, we wore all the hats, from install, to service, to sales, to fabricating," recalls Lou Hobaica. "We started with six employees, but quickly began to grow. I would say we grew anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent a year. Paul and I began to delegate and get ourselves out of the field. But all along, we found that the most difficult thing we were challenged with was finding good people for our team."

Hobaica ServicesHobaic team and trucks.jpg

Hobaica Services was founded in 1952, and has maintained a solid presence in the Phoenix, Ariz. region.

"We're likable, trusting, honest and ethical people, and when we work with customers, we create friendships. They're part of the family," Hobaica says. "And our customers know they can trust us. They have somebody on their side, someone who's looking out for their best interests. And it's why they choose to do business with us. So, finding individuals who represented us as the most likable people our customer had ever met was a difficult task." 

Hobaica Services is always looking for good people. They hold a hiring event every month. The hiring ads are posted on the company Facebook page, as well as the major online job boards.

The brothers established an apprenticeship program in 1995. They looked for people with the personality and communication skills, to properly represent themselves as likeable and trustworthy Hobaica representatives. The apprenticeship program began with a parts runner position, but later the title was changed to the more professional-sounding 'service support' position."

The service support individual would manage service parts inventory, and help out service experts with on-the-job duties, allowing them more time to create a personal relationship with the customer and resolve their comfort concerns. 

Manufacturers, and local organizations such as the Mechanical Trade Contractors of Arizona and the Electric League of Arizona, plus certification groups such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and North American Technician Excellence (NATE) as well as online courses such as those offered by Lennox HVAC Learning Solutions provide a comprehensive HVAC education. Apprentices and service support personnel are partnered with Hobaica technicians who are certified as field trainers, for hands-on field training. 

Hobaica packages the education/certification program in their "education trackers," which define all the education and certification required for each class of HVAC service expert, Hobaica explains. Class 1 Service Experts are residential maintenance technicians; they perform clean-and-check maintenance inspections on residential HVAC equipment. It's the first position technicians have when they graduate from the apprentice program.

Hobaica Services (the name was changed in 2006) had put about 80 HVAC technicians through its apprenticeship program before it began its fast-track program, a six-week program through the Better Tech Institute, which was created by Bryce Johnson of AC by Jay and partnered by Paul Kelly of Parker and Sons and Lou Hobaica.

Hobaica Services is always looking for good people. From Phoenix plumber candidates to candidates for electricians in Phoenix Hobaica is looking for that exceptional service provider to join their team. Even new or experienced Phoenix AC Repair service technicians are always in demand at Hobaica. They hold a hiring event every month. The hiring ads are posted on the company Facebook page, as well as the major online job boards.

"So, in six weeks, we could take an individual with no prior trade education or experience who simply wants a better life, a better future and is eager to learn a skilled trade. We hire them and put them into the fast-track program," Hobaica says. "They receive two weeks of field training and four weeks of classroom training — equivalent to a 9-12 month HVAC education certification program that we're all used to."

The fast-track program is essential for Hobaica Services as it continues to add services such as plumbing, drain and sewer, electrical, home security, home automation, water filtration and wine cellars.

Hobaica has successfully completed five apprentices through the program so far. The fast-track program is essential for Hobaica Services as it continues to add services such as plumbing, drain and sewer, electrical, home security, home automation, water filtration and wine cellars. Hobaica cross-trains its techs in as many trades as possible for several reasons. Techs are busy all year around, and when in the home, they can cover several trades offering many more products and services, and no layoffs when the weather does not create a cooling or heating demand. Education, training and onboarding new technicians is an expensive venture if you don't get a return on your investment.

“You have to be able to cross-train them, in my perspective,” Hobaica says. “It’s the best, most effective, efficient and profitable way to run a business, to get the most out of your personnel. We want to get the maximum return on our investment — the time, energy and money we’ve invested in this individual.”

“This is key to our apprenticeship programs: attracting talent and keeping up with our demand for additional skilled tradesmen. With our goal being to, ‘Own the home with all of the major services,’ we focus heavily on cross training our field experts with as many trades as possible,” Hobaica says.

“We find tradesmen other than HVAC, such as plumbing and electrical come to us with interest of learning trades other than their current such as HVAC, refrigeration, wine cellars, plumbing, electric, security or home automation.

“With all of the trades we offer, we have many opportunities for tradesmen to continue to grow, learn new skills, keep their job challenging and continue to invest in themselves.” 

Hobaica Services is always looking for good people. They hold a hiring event every month; the hiring ads are posted on the company Facebook page as well as the major online job boards. Lou Hobaica recalls he had one young man attend a hiring event over a year ago, Terrill, a plumber — nice young man, clean-cut, great personality, the perfect Hobaica representative. But Hobaica didn’t have any current openings for plumbers at the time. 

"I called Terrill up the next day," Hobaica recalls. "I told him I didn't have a place for him right now. 'You'd be a great addition to our team. This department will grow and I'll be in touch with you over the next few months.' When I did call him three months later, Terrill said, 'Lou, I was just thinking about you. I've been waiting for your call.' That was music to my ears. He's been waiting for me to call because we're the company he really wants to be part of. He's been with us for over a year now and he's been an excellent team member."

A few other outstanding techs that have completed the apprenticeship program come to Hobaica's mind. Steve Avila was a security guard before joining Hobaica in 2015. He completed the apprenticeship program in three months in the service support role. Today, Avila is a Class 3 HVAC Service Expert and on his way to the top tier — Class 4. He's added additional skillsets to his repertoire, such as pluming, security and wine cellars. 

“He’s a standout star, just a real sharp guy who had the right attitude,” Hobaica explains. “He’s honest, ethical, a hard worker and an excellent Hobaica representative."

Gavin Wharton attended a Hobaica Services hiring event this past November; he was working in pest control at the time and didn’t see much future in it for him. Lou Hobaica hired Wharton in January and immediately started him in the fast-track apprentice program. After six weeks, he was working as a residential Class 1 Service Expert performing maintenance calls, and is already taking on diagnostic and repair jobs after only two months — which typically takes six months to a year to accomplish. 

"He was our Raving Fan Champ for May,” Hobaica notes. “A Raving Fan Champ is the individual who made the biggest impact with our customers, receives the most online reviews and best customer feedback. Not only does he have superb customer service skills, but he’s been able to adapt without any previous knowledge, education or certifications.”  

For Hobaica Services, providing outstanding customer service starts with hiring outstanding people. Its fast-track apprentice program delivers entry-level HVAC technicians quickly and efficiently, enabling the company to continue expanding its services to their customers.

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