By Ann Bryant, Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — Eight adult education students recently completed a course designed to help them explore careers in HVAC – heating, ventilation, air conditioning – at Mt. Blue RSD Franklin County Adult Basic Education.
It is an introduction to what HVAC is and local employers need for trained people, said Glenn Kapiloff, director of Franklin County ABE during a final class of the first-ever, eight week course.
Three adult eds, Spruce Mt, Region 9 and Franklin County along with the Wilton CareerCenter and the Workforce Development Board combined to offer the course in light of Verso layoffs and the current need for HVAC personnel, he said.
The course was designed to build up interest and provide an opportunity for students to see what a career in HVAC could be like, he said.
Along with class work and hands on instruction, each student had two opportunities to job shadow at a local business, he said.
(Ann Bryant/Franklin Journal)
For the final night, two special panel discussions were held to help students consider where they might go from here whether that includes further technical training, a college degree program or going directly into the labor market, Kapiloff said.
One, a futures panel featured representatives from Northeast Technical Institute, Maine Energy Marketers Association, Maine Apprenticeship Program, Kennebec Valley Community College and Region 9’s truck driving school. Each discussed the programs offered to further the student’s training and education.
Most spoke of a 95 percent job placement after completion of the courses and the chance for testing to move up to journeyman or master certification and a subsequent increase in pay.
A second panel included local HVAC business employers, Dead River Company and Knowles Mechanical Inc.
Sandy Dyer from Dead River in Farmington along with Keith Knowles and Marty Britten of Knowles Mechanical in South China talked about what they look for in employees, potential openings and what preparation is needed for those.
Skills in math was one area mentioned as a need to succeed at further education and certification as a HVAC technician.
The three adult education programs said they could help students with those skills at no cost to the student through the College Transition course.
The students were encouraged to enroll with the Career Center for potential help with funding more education.
(Ann Bryant/Franklin Journal)
The businesses were also looking for qualified, hardworking people. Ones who are good in customer service and could represent their business well.
Retention of employees is a challenge as people don’t want to stay long, Dyer said. Becoming a technician can be a stepping stone in to other positions such as in management or sales.
But, people need to be trained to go out into the field, she said.
The new HVAC program meets criteria for change under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Kapiloff said.
WIOA was “designed to strengthen and improve our nation’s public workforce system and help get Americans, including youth and those with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers and help employers hire and retain skilled workers,” according to an online description of the 2014 law.
Kapiloff sees the program as a potential format for other technical training such as electrical services.
Lucky Harrison and Tom Harrison, plumbing instructors for Foster Career and Technical Education Center, taught the HVAC class.
Michael Burd, technology interpreter and life skills instructor for Franklin County ABE provided a work ready session for working in HVAC. The session aimed to help students understand the expectations of he job.
It is not just about going to school but fitting in after leaving school, said Harry Simones of the Workforce Development Board.