National HVAC Tech Day – Expert Interview & Advocacy Guide

“I think there’s a big disconnect with what people envision HVAC techs are. If we can break through that disconnect and help realize that HVAC techs are highly trained skilled workers, that would be a huge accomplishment.”

J.R. Kok, Associate Professor of HVAC Technology, Lewis-Clark State College

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration appliances and systems are integral to most modern buildings. Not only do they keep living and workspaces cool and comfortable, but they can also be relied on to keep food refrigerated or frozen. It takes years of education and training to become an HVAC tech with the skills to work on these intricate and complex systems.

To acknowledge their hard work, June 22 is designated as National HVAC Tech Day. This day is an opportunity to educate the public about this essential and often overlooked role.

HVAC work is much more than what initially meets the eye says J.R. Kok, associate professor of HVAC technology at Lewis-Clark State College: “There are all kinds of areas that HVAC tech students can go into. They can work either in commercial or residential, providing service and installs. Or they can work in distribution or design. It’s not too hard to start your own company in this field too and live quite comfortably. Facilities maintenance is another big area that they can go into. This is just a very broad career path with lots of opportunities.”

Kok emphasizes that there is high demand for this specialized job. “I think that the general public does not understand that there are not enough people in these trades,” says Kok.

Keep reading to learn more about job prospects in this field, how to celebrate HVAC tech on their national recognition day, and what certification may be required to do this job.

Meet the Expert: J.R. Kok

J.R. Kok is an associate professor at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, where he also manages the HVAC/R Technology program. He holds a master’s degree in adult organizational learning and leadership from the University of Idaho, is a class A air conditioning contractor in the state of Florida, and holds an HVAC journeyman license in Idaho. He has been working in the HVAC/R industry since 1990.

“I chose this career 30 years ago because I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduating high school,” he shares. “ Someone in a position similar to the one I have now came to my high school and talked about this career. He shared about how it required electrical work, plumbing work, and even construction. There was a lot of science and math involved, more so than the other trades I saw out there. I didn’t want to be bored, and I wanted to have things that keep me busy. I felt like that would be the case with this field, and it has been true.”

Education, Certification, and Licensing Required for HVAC Techs

Certification for HVAC is required in many but not all states. There is a mandatory Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification is required if working with sensitive refrigerants found in many systems. Other certifications may be required by employers to ensure candidates have the necessary qualifications. Licensing, on the other hand, is required almost across the board. In states where licensing isn’t required, it is often required at the county or municipal level.

“In some states, you get an apprenticeship card, or you need to be a contractor and hold the liability,” says Kok. “In Idaho, apprentices are often working while going to school online. The other option is to go to a full-time trade school, like our program. There are three things you have to complete to get your master’s certificate or journeyman card in Idaho. You need 1,000 hours, or four years worth of on-the-job training, an education from an approved school, and pass a journeyman test that is usually put on by a third-party testing agency.”

Job Prospects for HVAC Tech School Graduates

Kok’s graduates are in high demand: ”I can place 100 percent of my students,” he boasts. “I’ve been an instructor for seven years, and I’ve placed all my students every year.”

Kok continues, “Before I was teaching, I was in the industry. In the middle of the recession in 2007, I was still able to get a job because there was so much demand. Some have called it a recession-proof industry because who will give up their heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. No one.”

However, there aren’t as many students enrolling as there could be. “My program is not full. I can handle 15 in my day program, and I have 10. We still need to be recruiting and getting the word out to students that this kind of blue-collar work pays well,” he says. “This kind of trade work pays well and in many cases pays better than some professional academic careers.”

The job duties for HVAC contractors have evolved significantly over the years. “It’s changed since I’ve been in this field. These days, we’re moving away from some of the traditional ways that we hooked up equipment and made them talk to each other. Now there is a lot more digital networking instead of hardwiring. Technology is ever-evolving and changing, and we have to keep up to date,” says Kok.

Ways Employers Can Reward Their Staff on HVAC Tech Day

It is important for employers to take time on June 22nd to recognize National HVAC Teach Day and the hard work of their skilled HVAC techs. Having worked as an employer of HVAC techs, Kok has some recommendations of things employers can do to reward their staff on this special day: “Provide educational opportunities as well as ways to move through the company. That’s always a good motivator. Send your staff to trainings and pay for them. It will benefit the tech as well as the company to have staff trained on the latest equipment. I’d like to see more of that happening,” he says.

“Also, you can give them a way to progress themselves. Put that responsibility in their hands but provide the training necessary for it. Give them a clear path toward moving up and eventual management,” he says.

Other traditional ways to celebrate on the day itself are to treat staff to a catered lunch, provide them with bags of treats, and share on social media about the hard work they do.

Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world-traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was six and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. When not writing or parenting she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.

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