Building the Next Generation of HVACR Professionals
This fall, Howard Community College is launching its first-ever apprenticeship program in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR). In partnership with the Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors of Maryland (HACC of MD), the college will provide practical knowledge, coupled with hands-on skill building opportunities, to train the next generation of HVACR contractors.
“The state of Maryland is making this apprenticeship training program a priority based on market demands and the fact that many people working as HVACR contractors today are nearing retirement,” said Adrienne Summers, continuing professional education coordinator at HCC. “As we were exploring opportunities to add an apprenticeship program to our course offerings, we knew it will fill a need in our community.”
The apprentices will take a series of courses and will also participate in ongoing lab projects, designed to build and enhance field skills. Off campus, over a period of four years, each student must also log 8,000 hours of on-the-job-training, with oversight by an approved HVACR contractor. Those who are employed by a HVACR company as the program begins may complete their training hours through that employer, or identify a new partner to work with as the program progresses. All applicants are required to find a job in the field and begin documenting training hours by the start of the second year of the program.
“We believe the program appeals to new professionals and people who hope to make a career change,” said Summers. “This program opens an exciting new door.”
Upon completion of the program, apprentices will earn their journeyman’s license, with no need to take and pass an exam. Career opportunities for this profession are projected to increase at a much faster pace than many other occupations, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, they project that employment opportunities for HVAC mechanics and installers could increase by as much as 15 percent by the year 2026.
“The number one thing we hear from our contractors today is that they cannot find enough help,” says Stephanie Anderson, Executive Director of HACC of MD. “We are seeing a declining work force, and there are not enough candidates out there currently to fill the positions that are open. Our member companies need reliable people who are interested in learning the trade, and they are fully on board with being part of the training process.”
The need for comprehensive, technical training within the HVACR industry has evolved in recent years, as many heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems are now computerized and digital-based. Some of the most common roles licensed journeyman can pursue include technicians, installers, designers, engineers, auditors, and sales representatives.
“There is so much a person can do in this industry, and this training program guarantees our apprentices will land a good job with the potential for wage increases over time,” said Anderson. “It’s a great responsibility and honor to work with our partners at HCC in offering top-notch training for our professionals of the future.”