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Thread: The 5 year barrier?
11-01-2012, 10:19 PM #1
The 5 year barrier?
So it seems to be a fairly universal belief that it takes 5 years as a helper/apprentice to advance to full technician/mechanic status. Now I'm not talking about "classification"...I'm in the dirty south and we are sans union and no requirements in Louisiana whatsoever to get your HVAC state license other than paying for it and passing the state test. I'm referring to the ability to go out in the field and competently do HVAC work. Why so long? Is it because so many guys are stuck in attics pulling duct work for the first few years? Now I realize that all men are not created equally (the guy I replaced was a helper for 5 years and was never trusted to do even the most basic of tasks alone...hard working simpleton), but I'd really like to hear from some guys that were out getting it done after a year or two. I only personally know two HVAC company owners, and they BOTH went out on their own with only tech school and 2 years or less hands on experience. One of said companies (the one I currently work for) is older than I am, the other is 10+ years old and going strong with 3 trucks on the road and 5 full time employees. So what gives? Who out there among you has struck out on their own after a couple years and is still making it? Not just guys that started their own business after just a couple years, but also the guys getting paid real money working for other companies after just a year or two. How did you do it? I pay attention, ask questions, take notes (ya, the guy I work with thinks its HILARIOUS that I take notes in the field), let my tech relax and watch me do his work whenever possible, and come home and read my books and lurk on here. I'm guessing that's what you did???
11-01-2012, 10:26 PM #2
They say it takes 10,000 hours of experience before your really good at something.
That works out to about 5 years at 40 hours a week.
11-01-2012, 10:29 PM #3
i think 5 years is fair!
8 years for commercial!
after running service for five years you have seen enough different stuff that you can be pretty good!
of course when i started there were no circuit boards or ignitors?
there was still plenty to learn!I WILL SELL WORK,GENERATE BUSINESS, GO GET NEW CUSTOMERS!
YOU SHUT THE HELL UP AND QUIT RUNNING YOUR MOUTH!
11-01-2012, 10:36 PM #4New Guest
- Join Date
- Oct 2012
I have been in this trade for 20 years and still run into stuff that makes me think, you can be a functional tech in less than 5 years yes but it literally takes years of f*****g things up and learning from your mistakes to be a seasoned competent tech. Just my.02
11-01-2012, 10:50 PM #5
i could be wrong,but, i get the impression you have been doing this for a couple years and you think you are ready for the big bucks. Maybe you are, but i doubt it.
I have been in this trade since 86 and find myself humbled more often than i care to admit.
Trust me, you aint seen nothin yet.IV IV IX
use your head for something other than a hat rack.......Gerry
11-03-2012, 04:21 PM #6
I don't know much about the business end of what experience companies expect but I disagree with most of the guys here.
I'll take a rookie who can think over experience any day of the week. A good thinker with a good teacher shouldn't need more than 5 months let alone 5 years to be a decent tech. What we do is not rocket science no matter how you slice it & we have a huge margin of error too. We might cause someone to be inconvenienced for a few days at worst but we're not going to kill anyone or give them a disability for life. I enjoy learning about our trade because there is so much to learn but beer can cold will still usually get the system cooling. Probably half the experienced techs out there are still charging equipment like that today without call backs. Experience is always a plus but it doesn't help when you run across something you've never experienced before. Know the basics of how the system works & how to think it through & you can fix anything.Gary
An engineer designs what he would never work on.
A technician works on what he would never design.
11-01-2012, 10:53 PM #7
From what I've seen and experienced myself, I can tell you that in most cases, it takes 5 years just to get to the point where you're not breaking and @#$%ing up as much as you fix. I think it takes 10-15 years to be "good".Truth is still truth, even if no one believes it. A lie is still a lie, even if everyone believes it.
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11-02-2012, 12:34 AM #8Professional Member*
- Join Date
- Oct 2007
- Chicago, IL
Have to agree, took me about 4 years to move from installer helper to installer, about another month or two to quit worrying about the next days install, what am I doing tomorrow? Few more months to know I knew enough to handle most problems I walked into. Few more months, to stop being cocky and realize there is always something new to learn. Now I know, as long as I am in the business, there will always be something that I do not know or have yet to learn. This is a business of change, you learn something new everyday, if you don't, maybe you should be a plumber, water always flows downhill!!
11-02-2012, 07:02 AM #9Regular Guest
- Join Date
- Jan 2009
- Foothills of NC
I think 10,000 hours is about right. I think you can get that in before the 5 year mark if youre putting a lot into it outside of work. I work at a commercial company, but when i was trying to learn i would help some local residential guys (on their side work)in the evening for free just to get some experience. I read a lot, spent some time trolling on this site, took some classes and even got my state license.
11-02-2012, 08:33 AM #10Professional Member*
- Join Date
- Dec 2002
- SouthEast NC ICW & Piedmont Foothills
experience doesn't necessarily equal ability; you have to posses a desire to be good/better.
hang out at any parts house late in the day and see for yourself.It`s better to be silent and thought the fool; than speak and remove all doubt.
11-02-2012, 10:29 AM #11Professional Member*
- Join Date
- Aug 2007
- Northern VA 38 degrees N by 76 degrees W
Having many years of experience at a specific trade means nothing if you do not know what is right and what is wrong. There are thousands of individuals in various professions that have not a clue what they are doing.
Yo have got to have the desire to be the best at what you do. And you must have someone with knowledge to learn this from. Unfortunately most company owners are not concerned with technicians that are technically proficient, if you can convince a customer to purchase equipment and accessories you are considered a great technician.
The sad part is if you do not have the complete knowledge base of how a piece of equipment should perform, it is impossible to give your customer the service they are paying for.
Profit in itself does not equate to knowledge.
11-03-2012, 09:17 AM #12
hard to learn both install and service in just a couple years. 5 years gives a good time to get a good foundation in both.Contractor locator map
How many times must one fix something before it is fixed?
11-03-2012, 09:25 AM #13Professional Member
- Join Date
- Feb 2004
- Pacific NW
Slightly different perspective as worked for big corporations.
First hvac type job was ductwork on new 707 aircraft (old guy, eh?) It was about 30 (thirty) years until I was the guy to call when all else did not work.
As far as timing -- after just 2 years had been exposed to enough that I knew it would take at least 20 years to know what others around me knew -- but aircraft ECS (environmental control system aka HVAC) is maybe somewhat more complicated than residential hvac ?
Heck, when I started doing residential in retirement for some friends, it took a couple of years on this board to learn some seemingly simple but very practical and useful details about residential systems (example - see the flare thread on mini-splits)