The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors National Association (PHCC) Educational Foundation will host its second annual HVAC Apprentice Contest on Oct. 8-9 in New Orleans, LA. The contest will be a part of the CONNECT 2014 Conference.
The HVAC Contest features 12 top HVAC apprentices in a hands-on competition in six events:
brazing, where contestants assemble a refrigeration circuit with components following a drawing;
- refrigerant recovery and identification;
- a written knowledge test;
- an opportunity to take readings on a working package unit;
- electrical troubleshooting;
- basic electrical skills and wiring.
“The contest really set the bar for what we should know,” says 2013 winner Tyler Plueger, a young field technician with Downey Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in southern California, “and, while it was a bit of an eye opener in some areas, it also helped confirm some things I already knew.”
In the end, Plueger considers the contest’s practical application setting key to his success. “Hands-on is where
you really learn most of your stuff,” he says of his preparation as an apprentice. “If I had just read the book, there’s no way I could have won,” he adds. “It’s like being in a lab, doing recovery and troubleshooting … that was the biggest factor in helping me in this competition.”
In addition to the actual contest, contestants have the opportunity to attend special educational seminars at CONNECT, complete with peer-to-peer networking and exposure to the latest technologies and products available. “It was really great for building connections,” Plueger says of his involvement last year.
While Plueger is enjoying bragging rights and a big confidence boost, the tool package he received as the contest winner is the more practical part of his victory. “Especially in the HVAC industry, where things change so quickly with the technology, having those up-to-date tools makes my job so much easier,” he says. Plueger estimates that the tool package he took home — which included power tools, diagnostic equipment and some small hand tools – is worth $1,500 to $2,000. “A lot of it was upgrades to what I already had,” he adds.
As Plueger’s supervisor and the managing partner at his company, Joseph Keays sees great value in this particular perk and encourages local suppliers to continue supporting the contest by donating tools. “When somebody wins something like that, all those tools end up getting drop-shipped at the office … everybody is checking them out,” he says. “If one guy finds a tool that works well or saves time, all of a sudden it’s the shop’s brand!”
Information and contest applications are available at the PHCC Foundation Educational Events site.