Click HERE to view It’s Time to Update Your HVAC Training Program as a multimedia presentation.
Does your HVAC training program need a makeover? Yes, it does, and here’s why. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry is thriving, yet its future is uncertain.
The HVAC industry, like nearly every other industry across the nation and around the world, faces a significant skills gap. As new smart technologies become integrated into modern HVAC systems, that skills gap is only going to get worse. There are simply not enough skilled workers to fill the demand for HVAC technicians now and into the future.
Technical training has always been the solution to the HVAC skills gap, but not all training is created equal. Future HVAC technicians need to learn troubleshooting skills using an approach that combines practical hands-on skills with theoretical knowledge.
Amatrol’s HVAC training systems feature both comprehensive interactive multimedia eLearning curriculum and physical trainers that teach hands-on skills using real industrial HVAC components. Let’s take a closer look at the state of HVAC training programs and how Amatrol can help you take your HVAC training to the next level.
HVAC is Thriving
What do steamy, hot summers and frigid, cold winters have in common? Whether the weather outside has us sweating or shivering, we need quality HVAC systems to regulate our indoor climate to keep us comfortable.
In fact, a recent article by Kevin Burns in The ACHR News notes that 95% of houses built since 2000 contain HVAC technology. During the same time frame, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the HVAC industry grew by more than 20%.
A couple of factors will keep the HVAC industry thriving for the next decade and beyond. First, new construction will continue to drive demand for HVAC systems. Second, the HVAC industry is constantly innovating. Scientists and engineers are always striving to make HVAC systems “cheaper, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly,” according to Burns.
As a result, many of the systems installed since 2000 will need to be repaired, maintained, and ultimately upgraded or replaced in the coming years. All of these tasks require skilled HVAC technicians, because even the simplest HVAC systems available today demand a combination of expertise and skills beyond that of most do-it-yourselfers.
HVAC Faces a Significant Skills Gap
Unfortunately, the supply of qualified HVAC technicians isn’t keeping up with demand. Experts point out that many current HVAC professionals are nearing retirement age while not enough young workers are choosing HVAC as a career path.
The result is a skills gap that has created a critical shortage of qualified HVAC technicians today, and experts predict it’s only going to get worse. According to RSI — The Refrigeration School, “the Bureau of Labor Statistics…expects HVAC/R jobs to be added at a rate of 15% through 2026; this is more than twice as fast as the national average for all occupations.”
Compounding the skills gap problem is the fact that new HVAC technologies are becoming more and more complex. According to Burns, “many [modern] HVAC systems are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), with computers handling tasks for automatic temperature control and air quality…These days HVAC technicians need more than the tools in their literal tool belt to deal with installation and maintenance — they need an education and understanding of the electronics and networks associated with modern systems.”
HVAC Technical Training is the Solution
So how can schools and employers better prepare workers for the many HVAC technician positions available today and into the future? Technical training is the answer.
Today, HVAC technicians must be able to install, service, troubleshoot, and repair a wide variety of different types of components, including furnaces, air conditioners, boilers, heat pumps, refrigerators, coolers, freezers, humidifying units, and air filtration systems. For new workers, there’s a lot to learn, but the need for training also extends to current workers.
According to Burns, “[t]he best HVAC technicians are those who have changed with the times; bringing a solid understanding of HVAC mechanics to the table, while also pursuing training opportunities to stay up-to-date with the latest trends. While current HVAC technicians aren’t in danger of being replaced by robots, they may be outpaced by more tech-savvy peers if they don’t pursue continued education. Above all, HVAC technicians must be flexible and willing to learn in order to keep up with the fast-paced industry.”
Not All HVAC Training is Created Equal
Although technical training may be the solution, not all HVAC training is created equal. As the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) notes, “[p]eople learn in different ways. Some people learn by interacting with other students; some learn by getting their hands on real pieces of technology; others learn best by listening to a professor or instructor.”
Quality HVAC training is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. According to the ATI, “[m]any people interested in a respected trade like HVAC assume they can learn everything they need by just taking apart (and putting together) compressors, air handlers, heat pumps, furnaces and the like. In our age of computer-controlled devices, this is not true. Some theory is necessary.”
In addition to basic electrical, pipefitting, and soldering skills, HVAC technicians also need problem-solving skills that involve understanding computers, mathematics, logic, and science. For example, the ATI notes that, “[o]nce you understand things like the Ideal Gas Law and the various Laws of Thermodynamics, you can see them operate every day in cooling systems and heating plants.”
Too many HVAC training programs focus on either theoretical knowledge or hands-on skill development, but not both. As ATI concludes, “[a]n effective [HVAC] instructional strategy is to balance classroom time with hands-on lab time.”
Clean Out the HVAC Graveyard
Frequently, the hands-on skill development many students and workers receive comes in the form of working on old, broken equipment that has been donated for training purposes. In fact, many HVAC training labs resemble HVAC graveyards littered with the bones of obsolete systems.
While troubleshooting and repairing junk systems can certainly teach some important skills, these old pieces of equipment don’t come with curriculum and they don’t address the new technologies creating disruption in the HVAC world. That’s why schools get excited when they’re fortunate enough to receive new equipment for training purposes.
Take Buckeye Career Center (BCC) in New Philadelphia, Ohio, for example. In 2018, a local company donated two heating and cooling units to BCC’s HVAC lab. Instructor Matt McGraw notes how important such systems are for training: “I’m extremely grateful. It gives them (students) the ability to work on something new. The things that were in here were older and outdated. For them to see things that are up and coming in the industry, things that they’re going to go out and see when they get jobs, it’s extremely beneficial.”
Unfortunately, not all schools are as lucky as BCC. Nevertheless, all schools can benefit from cleaning out the HVAC graveyard, because Amatrol’s HVAC training systems make high-quality training possible for any school or company.
Amatrol Takes HVAC Training to the Next Level
Amatrol’s HVAC training systems blend the best of both worlds: high-quality, comprehensive interactive multimedia eLearning curriculum guides students and workers through hands-on skill development with physical trainers packed with real industrial HVAC components.
Remember the importance of scientific theory to a basic understanding of heating and cooling systems mentioned earlier? Amatrol’s Thermal Science Learning System (T7081) teaches learners the basic principles of modern thermal systems, such as HVAC, geothermal, refrigeration, and steam systems.
Once learners have mastered the basics, Amatrol offers more advanced thermal training systems in a variety of areas, including:
- Air Conditioning/Heat Pump Troubleshooting
- Environmental Applications
- Geothermal Troubleshooting
- Steam Systems
Amatrol also recently announced the debut of four brand-new HVAC training systems designed to bridge the HVAC skills gap and prepare future HVAC technicians to succeed in the jobs of the present and future:
Residential Heat Pump Troubleshooting Learning System (T7100)
Amatrol’s Residential Heat Pump Troubleshooting Learning System (T7100) teaches critical HVAC skills related to residential HVAC systems that use a heat pump and traditional ducting. Learners will work with real industrial HVAC equipment, such as: a heat pump condenser, heat pump air handler, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, and ducting. The T7100 was also designed to include transparent housings, pipes, and ducting with LED illumination that allows learners to see inside the system.
The T7100’s interactive multimedia eLearning curriculum covers a wide variety of fundamental residential heat pump topics, including: thermostat operation, pressure and temperature measurements, component tests, and system troubleshooting. The curriculum also focuses on the development of critical hands-on skills, including: operating a heat pump in heating and cooling modes, testing a thermostatic expansion valve, and troubleshooting insufficient cooling.
Residential Mini-Split Heat Pump Learning System (T7130)
Amatrol’s Residential Mini-Split Heat Pump Learning System (T7130) focuses on residential ductless (“mini-split”) HVAC systems. Learners using the T7130 will work with real industrial HVAC equipment, such as: a heat pump condenser, evaporator unit, thermostat, panel-mounted gauges, and condensate pump. The T7130 also features transparent housings and pipes with LED illumination that allow learners to see inside the system.
The T7130’s eLearning curriculum covers fundamental residential mini-split system topics, including: remote controller adjustments, heating and cooling modes, LED indicators, communication between units, and system troubleshooting. Learners can also expect to learn critical hands-on skills, including adjusting remote controller settings, verifying communication between indoor and outdoor units, and testing a four-way valve reversing valve coil.
Refrigerant Recovery and Charging Learning Systems for R-134a (T7031) and R-410a (T7032)
Amatrol’s Refrigerant Recovery and Charging Learning Systems for R-134a (T7031) and R-410a (T7032) teach future HVAC technicians critical hands-on skills related to system charging and refrigerant recovery. Learners using these systems will work with real industrial equipment, such as: a recovery machine, submersible cooler, temperature probe, filter dryer, electronic refrigerant scale, charging hose set, vacuum pump, and micron vacuum gauge.
The eLearning curriculum for the T7031 and T7032 covers relevant refrigerant recovery and charging topics, including: refrigerant fundamentals, leak detection, pressure and temperature measurement, refrigerant recovery and recycling, and refrigerant charging. Learners using these systems can also expect to learn critical hands-on skills, including using a compound gauge to measure refrigeration system pressure and removing a service valve core.
Learn to Troubleshoot Like a Pro
At its core, being a skilled HVAC technician is all about problem solving. Technicians must be able to arrive on site, inspect and diagnose a system to determine what’s wrong, and then recommend the best solution for repair or replacement. That’s why HVAC troubleshooting skills are so critical.
As noted previously, the junk systems populating the HVAC graveyards in training labs across the country can provide a limited amount of troubleshooting skill development. But why settle for limited practice with a few obsolete systems?
Amatrol’s new T7100 and T7130 training systems feature FaultPro, Amatrol’s exclusive computer-based fault insertion software. FaultPro allows instructors to insert a wide variety of electronic faults to teach key troubleshooting skills without harm to the equipment or danger to students.
Learners using the T7100 or T7130 with FaultPro will gain real-world problem-solving experience with more than two dozen mechanical and electrical faults they will encounter on the job. For example, the T7130 includes faults related to failures involving the fan motor, fuses, input power/wiring, compressor, and sensors.
Contact Amatrol Today!
Are you ready to clean out your HVAC graveyard and take your training program to the next level? If so, contact Amatrol today to learn more about its complete lineup of HVAC training systems.
A technical training expert will consult with you to determine how you can incorporate Amatrol’s systems into a training program that will help you bridge the HVAC skills gap and prepare students or workers to succeed in the HVAC jobs of the present and future!
About Duane Bolin
Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.