Click HERE to view Now Hiring: HVACR Technicians with Troubleshooting Skills as a multimedia presentation.
On a sweltering August day, the last thing you want to hear is a sudden silence as the air conditioning unit in your classroom, home, or office stops producing the cool air you depend upon. When this happens, your first priority will be finding a qualified heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) technician to troubleshoot and fix your system.
Hopefully, your wait won’t be too long, but don’t be surprised if getting a technician to your house takes longer than you’d like. Like many industries across the nation, the HVACR industry faces a critical shortage of skilled technicians.
While much of the news in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has focused on businesses closing and high unemployment numbers, there are still fields where skilled employees are in high demand and get paid well. HVACR is one of those areas, and HVACR business owners everywhere desperately need highly-skilled technicians with troubleshooting skills.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the HVACR technician shortage and consider how targeted skills training can help close the HVACR skills gap that exists today. In particular, we’ll examine how Amatrol’s new Residential Heat Pump Troubleshooting Learning System (T7100) provides the critical troubleshooting training the next generation of HVACR technicians need.
The HVACR Skills Gap
The HVACR industry, like nearly every other industry across the nation, faces a significant skills gap. The supply of qualified HVACR technicians simply isn’t keeping up with demand. Why? Experts point to the fact that many current HVACR professionals are nearing retirement age while not enough young workers are choosing HVACR as a career path.
The resulting shortage of qualified HVACR technicians is expected to only get worse in coming years. 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.”
The challenge HVACR businesses face is enticing young students to consider a career in the HVACR industry. Unfortunately, most students today don’t fully understand the opportunities an HVACR career offers.
In an article on the ACHRNews website, Philip Windham, President of Nortek Global HVAC, sums up the experience of many HVACR business owners:
“I’ve heard for years that what we do isn’t ‘techie’ enough to lure attention away from coding, analytics, general computing, electrical engineering, and on and on. Well, what we all do in HVACR is more vital, technical, and forward-thinking now than at any point in history. Think about all the air moving applications, associated controls and artificial intelligence that keeps our world running every day. From data centers to cleanrooms to grocery distribution…to schools to your own home, the opportunities are endless and are a lot ‘techier’ now than how the people in our industry are traditionally portrayed on television and other media.”
Technical Training Leads the Way
Getting more students interested in HVACR careers is just the first step in bridging the skills gap. Once they’re interested, you have to provide them with the proper technical training to prepare them for the HVACR jobs of the future.
For example, troubleshooting skills are particularly important for HVACR technicians. An article by Lincoln Tech identified troubleshooting skills as one of the nine essential skills an HVACR career is built upon:
“Most of the time, technicians will receive a call about a system before they have a chance to diagnose the problem. A good technician will be comfortable troubleshooting and deducing what the issue could be. This requires asking questions of the property owner and working with the system to see what may have failed.”
Because all business owners tend to be cost-conscious, some are hesitant to invest in training, especially training that involves advanced technologies. However, in an article on the HVACinformed website, Larry Anderson attempts to allay any such fears:
“Cost justification of technology solutions for HVAC technicians is a no-brainer. Companies routinely spend $450 to $500 to roll a second truck or to do a callback if there is a complaint or problem. These are non-billable events, and providers spend between 8 and 10 percent of their time doing callbacks or second truck rolls. Technology that can solve even 10 to 15 percent of callback issues provides an easy return on investment (ROI).”
Not All Training is Created Equal
Not all technical training is created equal. Indeed, quality HVACR training is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
According to the Advanced Technology Institute (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.”
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.”
HVACR experts agree that balance is key. Tomorrow’s HVACR technicians need to learn critical troubleshooting skills using an approach that combines practical hands-on skills with theoretical knowledge.
Hands-On Skill Training Requires Real Equipment
Often, the hands-on skills training many students and workers receive comes in the form of working on old, broken equipment that has been donated for training purposes. 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.
Instructor Matt McGraw of Buckeye Career Center (BCC) in New Philadelphia, Ohio, explains what the donation of new equipment meant to him and the students in his HVACR lab:
“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, most schools and businesses are not as lucky as BCC. Without donations of new equipment to experiment on, what are those tasked with teaching HVACR skills supposed to do? That’s why more and more people are turning to the technical training experts at Amatrol, a manufacturer of high-quality HVACR training systems that make effective training possible for any school or company.
Amatrol Takes HVACR Training to the Next Level
Amatrol offers a unique combination of comprehensive, in-depth eLearning curriculum with hands-on skill building via training systems loaded with real-world, working industrial HVACR components. Using Amatrol’s proven technical training systems, businesses and schools can begin to bridge the HVACR skills gap and prepare future technicians to succeed in the jobs of the present and future.
For example, the new Amatrol Residential Heat Pump Troubleshooting Learning System (T7100) teaches critical skills related to residential HVACR systems that use a heat pump and traditional ducting. Let’s take a closer look at what and how this groundbreaking training system teaches the next generation of HVACR technicians.
The T7100 teaches the essential, fundamental knowledge HVACR technicians must possess. Amatrol is well-known for its high-quality, comprehensive interactive multimedia eLearning curriculum, and the T7100 eLearning curriculum covers a wide variety of fundamental residential heat pump topics, including:
- mechanical refrigeration systems;
- forced-air residential heat pump systems;
- electronic thermostat operation;
- heating and cooling modes;
- HVACR pressure and temperature measurements;
- the subcooling method to determine system charge;
- heat pump component tests; and
- residential heat pump system troubleshooting.
Moreover, the curriculum also focuses on the development of critical hands-on skills, such as: operating a heat pump in heating and cooling modes, using a gauge manifold to measure thermal system pressures, testing a thermostatic expansion valve, determining if a system is properly charged using the subcooling method, and troubleshooting insufficient cooling. In total, the T7100 boasts eLearning curriculum that teaches 27 objectives and 22 hands-on skills.
Hands-On Skill Development
The T7100 enables effective hands-on skill development using a physical trainer designed with a wide variety of real industrial HVACR components. For example, learners using the T7100 will gain invaluable hands-on experience with actual HVACR equipment, such as:
- an outdoor heat pump condenser;
- a heat pump air handler with evaporator and electric heater;
- a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat;
- a condensate pump;
- a troubleshooting and diagnostics panel; and
- a heat pump schematic diagram.
The value of the hands-on skills learners develop using HVACR equipment they’ll encounter in the field cannot be understated. For example, the heat pump condenser and air handler are commercial-grade components manufactured by Trane. To enhance the learning experience, these components have been modified to include Plexiglas and internal LED lighting to allow learners to see what’s happening inside the system.
Unparalleled Troubleshooting Training using FaultPro
At its core, being a skilled HVACR 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 HVACR troubleshooting skills are so critical.
The T7100 features 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 with FaultPro will gain real-world problem-solving experience with more than two dozen electrical and mechanical faults that simulate real-world problems they will encounter on the job. For example, the T7100 includes faults related to failures involving the compressor contactor coil, outdoor coil thermistor, compressor start capacitor, thermostat output, and more!
Contact Amatrol Today!
Are you ready to take your HVACR training program to the next level? If so, contact Amatrol today to learn more about its complete lineup of HVACR 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 HVACR skills gap and prepare students or workers to succeed in the 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.