Hot Springs, Arkansas – National Park College (NPC) began a Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship approved Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Apprenticeship Program in 2017.
The College established the program with feedback from local HVAC contractors who expressed the need for an apprenticeship model of training. “We really need employees that can work during the day and go to school at night,” stated Jason Vincent of Grisham AireCare, who is currently serving as Chair of the NPC HVAC Apprenticeship Advisory Committee. “The apprenticeship model is beneficial to newer employees because they are getting not only classroom knowledge but hands-on experience in the field that reinforces what they are learning.”
NPC decided to close its one-year HVAC technical certificate program after enrollment declined with plans to restructure the program to better meet the needs of local industry. “We have been discussing the best format for this program with our local contractors for several months now, and everyone agreed that an apprenticeship model is the best way to ensure HVAC students receive the best possible training to prepare them for work in the field,” stated Kelli Albrecht, Vice President for Workforce and Strategic Initiatives. “We have received support from partners around the state, including our Department of Labor liaison, the state apprenticeship office, the state HVACR Association, and our local contractors.”
One unique aspect of this program is that pre-apprentices are allowed to participate in the classroom training, which means a student can begin classroom training before securing a job with a contractor. Local employers hope to use the program as a recruitment tool to hire apprentices.
Other opportunities may be incorporated for high school juniors or seniors that are interested in a career in HVAC and could include evening classes and hands-on experience with local contractors during the summer. Upon graduation, students could potentially work full time while they complete the apprenticeship.
Currently seven local HVAC contractors have agreed to send their newer employees to the HVAC Apprenticeship program, including Daniell Heat and Air, GTS, Grisham Air Care, City Plumbing, Heating and Electric, Climate Control Heating and Air Conditioning, Knox AC and Heating, and the Garland County Sheriff’s Office. The program may expand in the future to include more experienced employees that could benefit from a national credential. “Once a student completes the training they receive a national credential from the Department of Labor,” stated Albrecht. “This credential will allow students to work in any state as an HVAC Technician.”
The apprenticeship model of training is a combination of on-the-job training and related instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Nationally, apprenticeship programs have been on an upward trend in recent years. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 1,700 new apprenticeship programs were established nationwide in FY 2016. Arkansas has 88 active apprenticeship programs and saw 21 new programs in 2016 alone.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts demand for qualified, well-educated HVAC technicians will grow to grow 14 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to BLS. The BLS expects the demand will be driven by commercial and residential building construction, the growing number of sophisticated climate-control systems, and increased emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction.
Enrollment for the NPC HVAC Apprenticeship Program will be ongoing throughout the year. Classes will be held on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Contact Community and Corporate Training for registration information at 501.760.4393 or 501.760.4135.