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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    North Wales, PA
    Posts
    13

    Question about becoming an apprentice?

    I was wondering if every company going to require anyone going into the trade to be exclusively an Installer? I have been told in order to apprentice as a service tech I have to be an installer for a minimal of 5 years before I can even think of doing service and that It goes for anyone at my company regardless of experience level. My issue is that I have no opportunity to prove myself and no opportunity to improve my service skills. I have been to trade school and graduated at the top and I have excelent troubleshooting skills especialy dealing with issues on the electrical end of things. I have been told that no company will allow anyone reguardless of ability or education to apprentice or shadow a service tech for years. I would like some input on what I should expect or do.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    3,140
    I started out in installation and did it for 5 years before jumping into service work full-time, and I know that my experience in installation has made me a better technician. When I was doing installation, I was gradually working my way up through the jobs and trying to take on tasks of increasing difficulty and complexity.

    Another thing that helped tremendously was becoming a regular on HVAC-Talk. I learn stuff from these folks here every day and have made some valuable contacts.

    While working in installation is by no means a pre-requisite for service, it sure helps! Not many companies allow new guys to shadow experienced techs anymore. It's cost-prohibitive, they say. They prefer sink-or-swim OJT with guidance from a senior member of the team via cell phone.
    The key to happiness is lower expectations.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Posts
    461
    I started doing service right out of school. Followed a tech for maybe a month and was then thrown in the deep end to sink or swim.

    I'm still swimming partly thanks to h-talk and just reading, reading, reading every night.

    So to answer your question, no you don't need to due install for X amount of years. It does help though!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    North Wales, PA
    Posts
    13
    I believe in trial by fire so to speak. I just would like input on what sort of company I should be looking at and does company size really matter?

    Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk 2

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Chicagoland Area
    Posts
    4,855
    Here's what I would do. Locate the quality shops in your area. You can do this by talking to the counter guys at the supply houses. They know who's busy and who pays their bills. Send out some resumes to these shops. If you can get an interview, express your desire for service over install, and would they be willing to give you a chance after you've proved to them you can show up to work and can use tools, and not kill anybody or yourself in the process.
    Officially, Down for the count

    YOU HAVE TO GET OFF YOUR ASS TO GET ON YOUR FEET

    I know enough to know, I don't know enough
    Liberalism-Ideas so good they mandate them

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,042
    they want cheap labour for production. then again the logic is if you can't installed it you can't fix it.
    Parts Changer Extraordinaire
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Have tools and gauges, will travel.

    RIDGID|YELLOW JACKET|UEI|TESTO|STANLEY|CPS|VETO| KLEIN|MILWAUKEE|MASTERCRAFT|

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Tidewater Virginia
    Posts
    140
    My employer (non-union and commercial/industrial/speciality) has about 30 techs in the local office and currently has 5 apprentices who ride in the trucks with different techs almost every day. The company pays for 4 years of trade education and about 50% of a tech's wages in return for a 4 year stint after completion.
    Wish I had that option when I was young, but I was lucky enough to have a background in electronics and technical service in the family machine shop, so I went directly into Service instead of through the installation crew.
    In teaching techs, I've found most new techs are weak in the field until about their 5th year, then something clicks and they generally take off with a level of confidence which allows them to be productive. Install time can't hurt, but many installers can't break through to Service without some fighting.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Tidewater Virginia
    Posts
    140
    Small companies generally don't have the resources to invest in an apprentice (although some just don't want to). I've worked for both and each has their advantages...

    Quote Originally Posted by linuxexpert1989 View Post
    I believe in trial by fire so to speak. I just would like input on what sort of company I should be looking at and does company size really matter?

    Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk 2

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Beachwood, NJ
    Posts
    76
    Most contractors I know of will have you do both. In my experience, as an apprentice you may start helping a service tech for the first year. Then for the next 2 or 3 years you will be doing installation work. Then back to service to finish your apprenticeship. I find it smart to understand what you are troubleshooting, not just the technical service book end of it, but for example the size of the piping, length of the piping, location of parts being used, ptraps on risers, sight glass at the evaporator vs the condensing unit as you normally see it ( refrigeration), why pipes of longer lengths need to be sized bigger, so on and so forth. There are some things you can learn as an installer that you might not know or take for granted as a service tech since all you have done is service only. When you are doing install with a mechanic, you can ask them questions and still learn. I am a service tech doing controls now, but i did my fair share of installs in my time. Knowing the install part of systems helps me further use my troubleshooting skills. I have also heard of technicians complaining that they are service techs only when it comes to install. If the only work available is install at the time, which is rare but doesn't mean a day of that cant happen, its better to work then to go home with no pay, as i have seen when a tech says he doesn't do install. It only makes you a better tech to be well rounded than limited to what you can and cant do.
    " Good labor is not cheap and cheap labor is not good." MN

    UA Local 9

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,042
    service tech seems easy work physically, but you better have the brain power and understanding of why and how stuff work on that equipment. some of them been there longer than you've been alive (lennox GCS3!!! ) you just fiddle around and put your meter leads here and there, bang few parts, change some parts, and voila! flame! fire! if it's refrigeration it starts to blast cold air. but if whatever you did don't make it work, you better know for sure why that machine won't do what it supposed to do. every single lead wire could be a problem. corrosion, broken wire inside connector/marette or at the crimped end. bad voltage/leakage to ground etc.

    I don't do jack all to the gas side most of the time. everything is electrical. I felt like I should've gone for electronic school instead of gas school to be in this trade.
    Parts Changer Extraordinaire
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Have tools and gauges, will travel.

    RIDGID|YELLOW JACKET|UEI|TESTO|STANLEY|CPS|VETO| KLEIN|MILWAUKEE|MASTERCRAFT|

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    North Wales, PA
    Posts
    13
    Most of what I learned in school was electrical. I also have a few years experience with electronic circuits as well as assembly. I have 3 years of general maintenance of a day/overnight camp as well as a family business and 7 smaller investment properties and 3 years in the mechatronics ptogram back in tech school. I knew a lot about hvac before I went to school for it. I have installed 3 systems by myself for family members one was before I was employed in the field. The other was after six months and was everything but most of the duct work. I have common sense when it comes to making repairs safely. I think outside the box well. I am called on by the more experienced installer/techs many times when they get stuck or don't know how to re-wire something. I do have the right brain for it.

    Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk 2

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Tidewater Virginia
    Posts
    140
    Quote Originally Posted by blitz View Post
    service tech seems easy work physically, but you better have the brain power and understanding of why and how stuff work on that equipment. some of them been there longer than you've been alive (lennox GCS3!!! ) you just fiddle around and put your meter leads here and there, bang few parts, change some parts, and voila! flame! fire! if it's refrigeration it starts to blast cold air. but if whatever you did don't make it work, you better know for sure why that machine won't do what it supposed to do. every single lead wire could be a problem. corrosion, broken wire inside connector/marette or at the crimped end. bad voltage/leakage to ground etc.

    I don't do jack all to the gas side most of the time. everything is electrical. I felt like I should've gone for electronic school instead of gas school to be in this trade.
    Funny you should mention that; I was in electronic communications before i started (formally) in HVACR and it has helped with the electronic controls and DDC a lot!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Delaware County, PA
    Posts
    16
    From everything I have heard -- from my part of Pennsylvania -- you don't need any experience to become an apprentice. But, my current teacher told us: "considering the economy, if you can get any job in the field, even if you are just changing filters -- take it."

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