My thoughts exactly. I am in a apprenticeship program, and work hard. I am playing the certification game, and i like it because i do learn a lot. Let's be honest though. If you have some common sense it makes life so much easier.
I went to community college for 2 years and invest about 10k to earn a degree on HVAC. While I was going to school I got a part time job with a small company. I was applying everything I was learning and the owner was teaching me as well. Later, I worked for Union company doing commercial refrigeration and Air Cond. After, 5 years I applied for the School District in my Area. That was 11 years ago. Our state is going through difficult times, and the School Districts are not getting enough money to balance theirs books. School Board is talking about pay cut and worst case scenario lay-off. I have decided to specialize on controls and chillers. I have learned about everything from package unit to chillers, cooling tower, high pressure boiler, heat pumps and controls. Times are different now; there is too much supply and not enough demand. We need to educate ourselves to be more competitive in the market. These are very difficult times for everybody. Work hard and learn something every day, eventually it will pay off.
Wow, wolfie, I had no idea that things had been that bumpy for you.
I'll add two cents.
I have stayed away from residential since the early 90's.
Do the research FIRST. Ask several companies about whether they hire guys out of a particular program, and why or why not. Just like in aviation, there is no "shortage of workers," there is only a shortage of workers who will come into the field for the wages being offered, or which WILL be offered.
I think union apprenticeship is the most sensible way to learn the trade, from both a student cost and real-world exposure perspective.
If you decide to pay for your own schooling, make as certain as you can, by your own due diligence, that you are likely to get what you expect from the arrangement.
I went to St Philips Community College in San Antonio Tx in 2004-2005.
A good HVACR program with a variety of equipment. They have a local contractors advisory board that gives them feedback on what sort of issues they're having with technicians in the field and school graduates in particular.
The school includes hands on work on a wide variety of new and old equipment. A good combination of theoretical knowledge and hands on. From knowing the refrigerant cycle to actually testing and identifying grounded motors and compressors. One day we spent class time rotating between different design condensers and practiced removing and reinstalling the condenser fan motors. This allowed us to become familiar with the different mounting methods and how to deal with them. We were given a lot of hands on.
It wasn't free however it was cheap compared to the local technical school, less than $1000 per semester for all the classes at the local in-state rate. I still have all my books and occasionally refer to them.
On my 4th employer in 6 years, learn all you can, change jobs, get a pay bump. Earning almost twice per hour what I started out earning 6 years ago. Went from residential to commercial. I do miss some parts of the residential business, I may start to do residential work again after I get my hvac contractors license. Easy enough, my commercial employer doesn't care about residential jobs because it doesn't compete with the company.
I can only say, shees. I have worked with crappy companies before. Either they were incompetent, lack of customer care or did not reject that clients/customers job "it was out of there line of experience", did not care about the employee and so on.
I remember once, worked for a mfg. I did everything right. My site was prepped for the next day and nothing left to do. Everything was done. It was 4:58 pm two minute before bell rang to go home. I asked employee who I worked with, about long term benefits to work for the company. Next thing, a line supervisor saw me talking, reported me to supervisor, and fired me on the spot.
It seems the people or companies with honesty, integrity and characters are far and few between anymore. I am a US citizen that immigrated up into BC Canada and have noticed, that employees have more rights then in the US. The basic Canadian attitudes are great! most people here are nice :)
I would also agree with you on "informational interviews" of employers. I said to some one once "if you want to work for that employer, ask these employees if possible, how many old time "long time workers" are working at the company, vs total employee base. IF there are few, then you know its age discrimination based, or just to many people are hired, then fired. This is what irritates me about some one that says, "go and apply, they hire all the time!" yea right! I bet they also FIRE all the time. :)
BTW, up here in British Columbia, everyone is color blind. That is because half the population of the Greater Vancouver region was born in another country.
I am getting ready to go to trade school at the county Vo-Tech school here in New Jersey. I already have a BA and was working on my MBA. I decided to go to trade school because I wanted some practical knowledge I could apply. I am planning to work for someone for a while and then start my own company. My wife has her MBA and CPA and wants to retire in about 7 years from her company and manage mine. She is really good with numbers and business, and I am a good communicator and good with tools so I really just need knowledge. I already retired once from a good job. I got tired of traveling all the time so I took early retirement.
I think the county school should be better than some of the for-profit schools because a portion of the high school is located there too. It is an actual public school that adults can go to. And the price for a year is about 5500 dollars. That is about as much as the price of a semester at a university. The course goes for 6 hours a day from April to April. I paid cash for the school so I have no debt at all. And I have bought tons of tools over the years.
I am waiting to get my HVAC specific tools. I want to use some tools and figure out what I like.
Man , this has turned out to be a valuable thread to me! Im a RN , and a manager. $86k/year with health benefits and pension. I came here to explore getting into the field becasue it has always interested me and we are seeing some writing on the wall with Medicare/Obamacare. i.e. raises are on freeze, yearly bonus have been stopped, etc. But this might be a hard career change to make. This thread might be the reality check Im looking for!
If you're making $86K with benefits STAY where you are. It takes quite a bit of time to get to that level in the HVAC business.
This is a long thread and have no intent to read it all. Let me say im 28 and quit a job makeing 18 an hour with more OT than i could handle to get into this feild. Yea im gonna work in the near future for less than im worth im sure. But there are alot more labor intensive jobs out their with around the same pay scale. So keep learnen, no successful business can bs everyone forever word will getround
I have been in the HVAC commercial end for 30+ years and I am making a base of 70K and I pay for my hosp, med benefits et all. So if it were me I would stay were I was at as just starting out you would be lucky if you broke the 20's. If you were involved with the fire department where you work one day and are off two, it would make a nice second income. My son is trying to get on one of the regional FPD's around the Houston area and I have been trying to teach him the finer points of residential (it would be nice if I knew it first). Good luck whatever you decide.-GEO
Join the local chapter of RSES and take advantage of their training and certifications. Trade school will teach you the basics of Superheat and Subcooling. And how to use a multimeter and ammeter. The rest is on you to self study and invest in your education. Ever since I went to trade school, I have not been out of work since. Even in the recession. The basics I learned in s chool fortified my understanding of the principals of refrigeration.