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Poor Teachers Or Poor Students?

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Is it the technicians or the schools? In fact, it may be a little of both. Let’s take a closer look at the pool of new technicians and see what’s up.

Many are quick to blame the technical schools as being out-of-date technologically, over inflating the expectations for inexperienced technician compensation, or having a poor curriculum in general. Any or all of these accusations may or may not be accurate for any particular training center, but before we put all the blame on the schools, let’s start with some observations about the technicians themselves.

In my experience working as both an employee and an employer, I’ve noted that there are two distinct types of employees. I broadly group them as professionals in group #1 and time-card punchers in group #2.

What’s the difference? Well, pretty simply the employees in group #2 come to work each day, punch in, do their assignments, and then punch out. A job is just a paycheck to those in group #2 and when the pay stops, they stop working and learning. Whatever further training they get is a result of some official interjection, such as being assigned to attend classes offered by manufacturers. They seldom if ever take the initiative to go online or crack a book to further their own education/knowledge.

Group #1 on the other hand is naturally inquisitive. They’re generally proud of their work, no matter what level it may be and strive to always produce quality work. They take callbacks seriously and research the reason for a callback. They spend time after work discovering and/or researching what they’ve done on previous days and seek solid answers as to the why’s and wherefores for actions they were instructed to perform, but don’t understand the reasoning. As their knowledge and career advance, they will research upcoming work to be sure they’re knowledgeable about it so they don’t make mistakes. They take pride in doing a high quality job in a short period of time. It is my opinion, that these are the characteristics of the true professionals in any industry and it makes them stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, true professionals are found more often in much more highly compensated jobs, such as medical personnel, stock brokers, and business entrepreneurs.

So, with all that said, we can now look at training schools, which have two strikes against them at the outset. The first hurdle is that of their teaching staff. They have a high probability that they have a majority of group #2 teachers and an equally high probability that they have a majority of group #2 students in the classroom. Add to that mix the fact that many schools lack a well-organized curriculum and you’ve got a recipe for mediocre technicians being introduced into the field with little hope of substantial knowledge gain after graduation due to their own lack of professionalism overall.

It is my personal philosophy that no one should criticize anyone or any system unless they have a suggestion on how to improve that which they criticize. Given that, how can we improve on human behavior and begin the process of bettering our pool of technicians from which we draw? We need to begin to train them to be professionals. Many of these future technicians have just never been exposed to what it takes to be a true professional. So it is to our distinct advantage to train them properly from the onset.

Training the Trainer is a great start, but doesn’t go far enough. Perhaps we should set a minimum acceptable standard for HVAC schools. This might include a requirement that all instructors be NATE certified. It might include a new level of NATE certification that specifically addresses training, such as NATE certified in the basics of education, such as how people learn, setting up a curriculum, organizing a lesson plan, executing a daily lesson, and other such important issues.

You’ll never have a graduating class of technicians that’s 100% professionals, but by starting them off with certified, professional instructors, we may have a significantly greater chance of getting higher quality, better trained, graduating technicians. And that will help us as we continue to train them in our businesses.

Posted In: ACCA Now, Opinion

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