Our Mission: HVAC students have just completed their first mission! To start off their time, we asked them to reach out to someone in their professional network and interview them about their HVAC careers – how they got started, how they became interested, and what advice they might have for an up-and-coming HVAC pro.
Here’s what they said:
Aaron: Interview with Ferris State University professor, Eric Fradette.
I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with my professor, Eric Fradette, about his journey through the HVAC industry. During high school, Mr. Fradette worked in construction. As he thought about continuing his education into college, he visited Ferris State University for more information about the construction management program. While on that visit is when he first learned about the HVAC world.
In 1999, Mr. Fradette enrolled in the HVAC program at Ferris and two years later earned his associates degree. After graduating, he worked for a commercial refrigeration company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A few years later family brought him back to his hometown of Cheboygan, Michigan and he began working for a residential heating and cooling company. In 2004, he went back to Ferris State University and completed his Bachelor’s in HVAC.
After school, he started working for Trane of West Michigan as a project manager. He enjoyed working with his hands much more than being in the office, so he switched jobs and went to work for Hurst Mechanical as a commercial/industrial service technician. During that time, he became a licensed journeyman and also earned his mechanical license. His favorite part about working as a service technician was seeing something different every day, constantly being challenged, and working outside, even in the elements. After six years of working in service an opportunity came up that allowed him to take a position as the Mid-Michigan union service instructor which served four different training centers throughout the state of Michigan. After two years of teaching in the union, he was presented with yet another opportunity that brought him to where he is today; an associate professor for the HVAC program at Ferris State University. His favorite part about teaching is witnessing someone go from never lighting up a torch to becoming a master of their craft.
Mr. Fradette would recommend this industry to anyone, even his own children. His career path was quite unique, just as many others within the industry. Due to the vast opportunity and multiple directions available within this industry, no one is stuck to one direct career path. You are always in the driver’s seat and the road ahead is fully in your hands.
Gustavo: Interview with San Jacinto HVAC instructor Ben Ficklin
1. When did you start working on the HVAC field?
Answer: I started when in my late teens with a friend of mine who was an electrical engineer took me with him to his job sites. He would teach me as much as he could about his field, but also lots about the HVAC units that all of the job sites were required to have. It didn’t take long of me working out there, to quickly realized that had a developed a huge passion in becoming HVAC technician.
2. What made you interested in becoming an HVAC professional?
Answer: It was interesting to me the concept of the complete cycle and parts of a refrigeration system. I found it very interesting and fun to work on Refrigeration systems, specially every time new models came out.
3. What sort of training or education did you receive when you started?
Answer: During my first few years of being an HVAC apprentice and working in the HVAC field, I received most of my training and knowledge from the certified HVAC technicians I worked with.
4. What do you like about your job?
Answer: I love my job as a HVAC Technician and Instructor because I enjoy teaching others everything there is to know about the HAVAC industry. I like working with my students and being able to pass on to them all the knowledge I have gained in my 30 plus years of working in this field. Still till this day, I learn something new because there are always new HVAC systems out there with new technology incorporated in them. This field is constantly changing, and being able to help my students troubleshoot and fix the old and new HVAC systems, is the greatest accomplishment in itself for me.
5. Would you recommend this career path to others?
Answer: Yes. Most definitely I would. HVAC technicians are one of the most demanded individuals out there. The pay is great and there is always a job out there for an HVAC technician. The opportunity for self-growth in this field is huge and the sky is the limit!
6. What is the # 1 recommendation you give your HVAC Students?
Answer: I always push my students to making sure they understand their study material such as homework and HVAC book assignments, to the fullest. It’s important to understand exactly everything their study material involves or is trying to teach them. There is no point of turning in a homework assignment if you really didn’t understand. I always encourage everyone to ask me anything they did not understand so that I can clearly explain it to them or show them in a way for them to understand.
7. Do you have any regrets from being in this field of work?
Answer: My biggest regrets were not attending San Jacinto College earlier. I waited too long to make up my mind in going to college to earn my electrical and air conditioning degrees. Going to college helped out tremendously in understanding a lot of the technical issues/ problems you run across in this field of work. Besides getting paid a little more for having a degree(s), these days it is essential for technicians to have some type of degree that ties them to this field in order to show some type of proof that they possess the basic knowledge and techniques required to work out there in the field.
Chris: Interview with Southern Union State Community College Instructor David Burdette
I decided to interview my instructor, David Burdette. David started working in the industry 35 years ago, and opened his own business shortly after. He was working at a grocery store one day when one of their coolers stopped working. He caught glimpses of the service techs entering and leaving the store with a wide assortment of tools- gauges, wrenches, pipe cutters, and torches. He was drawn in immediately, attracted to the fact that the industry requires such a wide range of skills, knowing that there would never be a dull moment and the job would not feel repetitive. He recommends others join the industry for a couple of reasons- the feeling you get when someone thanks you for fixing their air on a hot summer day, and since the number of HVAC techs is shrinking and the average age of those techs is nearing retirement age, he says that young people entering the industry today can write their own ticket.