By Jason Leonard and Charles Phillips
Technical training of years past may have included PowerPoint presentations and handouts, but now as even the youngest baby boomers are approaching retirement age, that’s changing rapidly as manufacturers welcome a new generation of professionals to the HVAC field.
Almost all HVAC professionals today carry a smartphone, and they’re benefiting from a major advancement in training technology. It’s clear that manufacturers are playing an indispensable role in this revolution of HVAC continuing education. Brands have made sizable investments to ensure that their training curricula remain world-class and are meeting the ever-changing needs of their customers.
Today, businesses are now able to deliver tailored training, including in-person courses, virtual classes, mobile training and on-demand resources for troubleshooting in the field.
This type of training flexibility appeals to Gen Z workers considering a career in the HVAC industry. Research firm ECMC recently found that 61% of Gen Z students surveyed favored a skills-based education over a college degree. These young workers understand that skilled trades can offer stability in today’s economy.
In addition, younger tradespeople are extremely tech-savvy. They’re the first generation to grow up with the internet, so it’s natural for them to seek out virtual training resources and on-the-go opportunities. To help HVAC beginners master the basics of water heating technology, manufacturers are offering a wide range of development programs that cover basic principles in condensation and evaporation, circulator operation, negative regulation, connection plugs, venting, sizing and more.
HVAC And Ongoing Education
Here are some of the many ways that manufacturers are transforming ongoing education in the HVAC industry:
Hands-on learning labs – People just entering the HVAC field often benefit significantly from the tactile experience of assembling and disassembling parts of a water heater or boiler. In A. O. Smith and Lochinvar product labs, students learn to troubleshoot various units through hands-on training.
Greater granularity – Using innovations like remote-controlled 4K pan tilt/high-zoom cameras, instructors can give remote students extraordinary close-ups of components and panels. A. O. Smith has a 360° camera, 3D renders and augmented reality, which all work together to provide better than in-person views and instruction for online students.
Greater specificity – Manufacturers are now taking a fresh look at training on demand, offering bite-sized video snippets for specific situations. Through virtual on-demand resources, HVAC professionals in the field can watch 1- to 3-minute videos on topics like basic gas regulator installation and igniter replacement.
Global reach – For years, A. O. Smith University has had the ability to live-stream video from its television production studio. In the last few years, instructors have expanded the breadth of their training capabilities—allowing hundreds of thousands of people to take advantage of various educational offerings.
Easy-to-use digital simulators and calculators – Some companies, like Lochinvar, offer a variety of digital simulators for both new and legacy products, plus handy online calculators that simplify primary/secondary tee mixing, outdoor temperature reset and secondary heat exchanger flow rate.
Training for sales teams and channel partners – In addition to facility manager and technician training, manufacturers can also offer content geared to channel partners, including product features and benefits and other high-level details that may be helpful when talking to a customer
Bringing Insight On Site
Sometimes it’s advantageous to have instructors visit contractors in their own communities. It’s a convenient way to get world-class instruction without disrupting contractors’ work commitments.
Lochinvar will soon redeploy its mobile training truck—an option first pioneered in the late 1980s. The mobile training truck is a 30-ft. box van that’s climate-controlled, making it ideal for year-round use. There’s a 60-in. television onboard that enables Wi-Fi access to training videos and how-to guides. Up to six different Lochinvar units can be featured on the truck at one time. Every unit is piped and wired so that the screens on the units function like simulators and the piping is shown as it would be in a real-world application, complete with pumps and an expansion tank.
Refreshing Skills After Technical Training Schools
HVAC manufacturers’ in-house training capabilities are incredibly comprehensive, allowing people entering the industry the chance to learn on the job. Even HVAC professionals who’ve been in the industry for a decade or more are benefiting from continuing education, especially as it relates to newer technologies that are rapidly gaining market share, including heat pump water heaters. When new technology enters the market, facility managers can feel confident that forward-thinking manufacturers will have training available to provide the necessary knowledge.
As the HVAC industry continues to develop on all fronts, so must the resources that support the industry. It’s clear that manufacturers play a critical role as partners to HVAC tradespeople and resources like these are only one of the many ways that they can support the advancement of the industry.
Jason Leonard is Marketing Technology and Training Manager at A. O. Smith. Charles Phillips is Technical Training Manager at Lochinvar.