As I look back in time when I completed my necessary oil heat training requirement, I recall the biggest challenge was finding a company that would hire me. By good fortune and a little luck, a small family company located in the smallest state gave me a chance to put my knowledge and mechanical skills into action.
I was at first teamed up with one of the most knowledgeable oil burner man, as they were called, that I could ever have imagined. He, Big Al, turned out to be like a father as he took me under his wing and taught me everything he could that was related to the trade including wiring, motors, transformers and even how to replace a helix in the RA117A stack mounted relay. I know, I’ve given away my age.
After many years of training with big Al and several hours of schooling, at my expense, I was told by big Al that he could teach me nothing more and that I was ready to go it on my own. I still remember how nervous I was when I had to take my state exam to become a oil burner technician and how challenged I felt when I was sent on my very first service call, even though Big Al was secretly watching my progress.
Recently, I started to wonder what was in store for new students of the trade, and I had an opportunity to chat with two young men who in June of 2009 graduated from a four year HVAC course. I was able to hear about their goals for the future in this trade that many of us have come to know so well. They both said they want to connect with a company that would give them a start like many of us received early in our careers. They said that they had applied at several companies, filled out applications and were basically told that because they had no experience or license that there were no jobs available.
I know and understand, as all of you do, that we’re in what is referred to as state of economic down turn and many companies are just operating in a survival mode. Some companies have also found it necessary to reduce their work force and a few have even closed the doors to their business. I also know that if these two young men and other graduate students of our industry are not given an opportunity to earn their apprenticeship, they will soon wonder why they picked the HVAC as their trade choice.
I would like to see these students at the very least be given a chance to meet with owners and service managers and be given a positive feeling, rather than the cold shoulder, because they need a break too! Some of the students that I have spoken with have asked me, “What do we have to do?” My answer is always a simple one, “Ask for an opportunity.”
Also, let’s take a moment to remember how we got started and how we would have felt if the rolls were reversed today. Perhaps some of you who are in management level positions could find a way for them to work with, or shadow, a technician for few hours a day or at the very least give them a word of encouragement.