You’ve met this year’s Mission: HVAC participants – now it’s time to learn a little more about who they are and why they chose to pursue an education and career in HVAC. For their first mission, we asked Stefan, Glenn, and Jackson to tell us what prompted their interest in HVAC and how completing a trade education will help them as they strive for success in their fields upon starting their careers.

Stefan: From Sales to Service

Stefan Clark Mission 1

Stefan is pictured with coworkers at the main chiller station in downtown San Diego during his time as a sales rep.

As a solar powered guy raised in Arizona and subsequently moving to South Florida, I was steeped in the necessity of conditioned air in life. I wish I could say that this was what spurred an inspiration like I currently have for HVAC/R. Not so, but as a successful real estate agent in my mid-30s I encountered many homeowner issues in South Florida. Two of the biggest were efficiencies of the homes, and quality of air that exists inside those homes. Fortunately for me, my biggest real estate customer was a manufacturer solving Indoor Air Quality problems internationally. Our relationship led to a sales manager job with his company, and my love for the HVAC business was planted.

Traveling for a sales job can be brutal…or rewarding, depending on your mindset. In my every day pursuit of sales leads I was blessed to encounter a few life changing mentors. The foremost was a Dr. Timothy Muckey (deceased), HVAC/R Professor at El Camino College, CA. As the professor at the foremost air conditioning college in the state, his passion was remarkably unmistakable – so much in fact that it was contagious. Dr. Muckey was late in his battle with cancer when we connected. My decision to spend as much time with who I believed to be a great man changed my whole perspective of how much we really need, want, and depend on this HVAC trade. This career is as needed as teachers and doctors, and even less likely to be replaced by robots.

Having a limited scope of experience with the HVAC field, I chose to go the more classically trained method of learning. I chose to enroll in the highest rated school in my county. Not just to learn, but to get a true feel for the disconnect between the need for skilled tradesman, and the lack of availability of workers to fill that need. I firmly believe that this avenue of learning will not only help me with my critical thinking in the field in the long run, but will help me when I am able to give back to this industry by training more skilled tradesman with my company.

The true beauty of any trade, moreover with the HVAC trade is that there will always be a need for your critical thinking. You must be able to not only understand a process, but troubleshoot it as well. For anyone not so inclined for desk work this is a dream come true. Going to school every day to get a better understanding of these sciences and issues makes waking up every day even more inspiring.

The challenges are not all easy to address. Learning a trade as quickly as possible will lend to numerous frustrations. There is no easy way around hard work, regardless of brain capacity. Do not let these challenges hold you back – embrace them and use them as fuel to be a better student and technician. Even working in the field doing HVAC, we are all still students, and gladly so!

Glenn: A New Perspective

My knowledge of the HVAC industry came from my father. My father was a boiler technician aboard a Navy ship during the Korean War and later, using his skills he learned in the Navy, worked on the boilers for the Des Moines Art Center. With a background of troubleshooting and repairing mechanical items, I knew I wanted to explore the HVAC-R industry.

Glenn Mission 1

Glenn learns how to work with sheet metal in hands-on HVAC classes.

One of the reasons I chose to get an education in HVAC was because of what I experienced when I had issues with my furnace. Trying to repair it myself was a struggle. I told myself that if I had an opportunity to receive HVAC training, I would. After retiring from the Military, I was eligible for the Post 911 G.I. Bill, and within 6 months I was sitting in a class room learning the HVAC trade.

Without any formal education and not knowing anyone in the trade, it is very difficult to get into HVAC. The degree that I will earn when I graduate will open a lot of doors in the field. I can even apply for a state license and work for myself, although I think it would be prudent to work a few years with an established company first.

My favorite thing about studying and working in HVAC is gaining a new skill and gaining knowledge on how to repair HVAC systems, as well as learning how all the components function and what makes that system “tick.”

My biggest challenge was going back to school. I graduated from automotive trade school back in 1978 and sitting in a classroom with students with the average age of 25 has been a real eye opener.

Jackson: A Family Affair

For as long as I can remember I have been in and around the HVAC industry. Ultimately, my knowledge of the industry came from my father. From a very young age I knew that I wanted to be part of the industry. When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always responded, “I want to be an Air Conditioner man just like my dad.” He never took my interest very seriously, but I knew this was it. It was all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Jackson Mission 1

Jackson is pictured with his dad, David Wilson and a company truck.

When I started my senior year of high school I knew that I was going to graduate with 3.9 GPA and in the top ten of my class, at that time my father was trying to get me to go to college for accounting and MIS. The whole school year I entertained the fact that I might be able to do that. It was a month before graduation and my dad had told me that the following weekend we had some duct work to run in a gas station and because it was a 24-hour store we had to wait until the night. We did the job and we were on our way home and I started realizing that if I become an accountant I’ll never have these kind of experiences, I would mostly likely sit in a cubicle and stare at a computer every day and that fact drove me crazy. I finally mustered up the guts to tell my father that I wanted to do Heat and Air – and he was very confused at first. I explained to him that I could never have an office job, because it’s not how I was brought up. I was always on a job sight and it was all I knew and I loved it.

In the HVAC field a trade education can help you excel past co-workers and competitors who do not have any in-school training. In a trade education you are exposed to more in-depth theories on how things work and how to better troubleshoot them, whereas if you simply just “pay your dues” and don’t get a technical education you don’t fully understand why certain components do what they do and how they do it.

In my opinion the best part about studying and working in the HVAC industry is the hands-on experience. Every day I go to school and get to actually work on something, and then I come home and I get to work on things at my job. I believe that you can learn more by doing than you ever could by reading a text book or listening to a lecture.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced studying in the HVAC field is relating things I learn in the classroom to things my father has taught me working with him. He didn’t have the same opportunity I have to get a trade education, rather he learned by doing and figuring things out on his own. The things he teaches me aren’t wrong in a sense that they get the job done correctly and safely, but the things I learn in school are more in-depth and detailed on why and when to condemn parts and equipment.