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September 23, 2018

Graduates of JCCC’s HVAC program are in big demand regionally and nationally

Philip Jones (not pictured above) had no idea how a chance meeting in a Johnson County Community College hallway would change his life.

After serving in the Marine Corps, Jones needed a new career but wasn’t sure what to do. A friend told him about the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) program at JCCC, but he was skeptical after his struggles in high school. What Jones discovered in the HVAC program was an excellent group of teachers dedicated to student success in school and after graduation.

Halfway through his second semester, Jones and a fellow student ran into HVAC Associate Professor Howard Hendren as he was showing Lennox Heating and Cooling representatives around campus. Hendren praised Jones and the other student to the Lennox reps, who handed them business cards. Jones followed up and just a few months later, after completing his certificate, he was hired by Lennox as an entry-level commercial technician.

“I’ve already learned a lot in the few months I’ve been in the field,” Jones said. “But I also knew how to do many things from JCCC. I was able to prove to my employer I knew the basics, which is what they were looking for.”

JCCC HVAC grads in big demand

Every week, Hendren gets calls from employers looking for strong job candidates. “The biggest needs they have are for someone who is trainable,” Hendren said. “We can teach the hard skills, but it’s things like a positive attitude and a willingness to learn that get a student through the door for an interview and then hired.”

JCCC HVAC graduates work on all kinds of systems – from residential and commercial furnace and air conditioner installation and maintenance to specialized machines like restaurant icemakers, fryers and walk-in coolers, or even the chillers for ice skating rinks. Most starting technician wages are in the $14 to $16 per hour range, but quickly increase with experience and more certifications.

Trustworthy and professional techs needed

Hendren says employers also are looking for “soft skills” such as good communication, the ability to solve problems and strong relational skills. Erika Jones, Human Resources Supervisor for Anthony Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, seconds that. “Our motto is ‘technicians you can trust with your house keys,’ so it’s really important to us to hire technicians who are trustworthy and act professionally,” she said.

Over the years, Anthony has hired a number of JCCC students. “We like that they’ve put the effort into their learning experience,” Jones said. “If they have those good personal qualities and a strong foundation of HVAC knowledge from JCCC, we can train them to do the rest.”

New educational facility; more hands-on opportunities

As HVAC moves away from ductwork and becomes more technical, JCCC’s certificate and associate degree programs are keeping up.

The HVAC program will be moving into the new Career and Technical Education Center, due to open in early 2020. (Watch a time-lapse video of it under construction.) According to Richard Fort, Interim Dean for the Industrial Technology Division, the HVAC labs will become even more realistic, reflecting what students will one day do out in the residential and commercial fields.

Additionally, the building itself will be an immersive learning environment. “The new building will become a learning tool as all the mechanical systems will be visible through windows, color-coded and labeled,” Fort said.

Grad sees successful future in HVAC

HVAC graduate Jones will soon take part in Lennox’s “build-a-tech” program, an apprenticeship that trains technicians to service more commercial systems – and allows them to make more money. “I was able to troubleshoot a potential problem for a restaurant client recently,” Jones said. “It felt really good to rely on my JCCC education, as well as what I’ve learned at Lennox, to help a client avoid a problem and save money.”

Jones has decided his future is in HVAC. Completing his certificate at JCCC and seeing his education put to work also has encouraged him to pursue an associate degree in the field.

Who knows – maybe another hallway discussion will propel his HVAC career even further.

Looking for a hot career?

If you want a career that’s hands-on and offers different challenges every day, take a look at JCCC’s HVAC program. Scholarships are available, courses can be taken while you work full- or part-time, and you can complete:

  • your certificate in one year, or
  • your associate degree in two years.
Contact Howard Hendren at 913-469-8500, ext. 3805, to learn more.