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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    California/Nevada
    Posts
    3,594

    WARNING about HVAC trade schools

    Im going to say the important stuff first then get into details.

    Is paying 10 grand for HVAC trade school a rip-off?
    In short, yes it is.
    When you hand over 10 grand, someone, somewhere just hit the jackpot.

    I will also say that i've done it and i don't regret it,
    and i don't regret the electrical and mechanical knowledge i've learned.

    My Advice: If you don't plan on running your own business out of your own truck, or trying to put togther a larger business, you probably shouldn't enter this field.
    (Most of the HVAC industry is run by small business)
    Contractor requirements are 3 years exp in many states 5 years in some.

    if you live in Southern California or Nevada, you're going to have a tough time.

    Testing your Area: Before you enter the field you could ask people some information who are working in the trade, so you can get a sense of what the businesses are like in your area.
    Ask them if they like their job and ask them how long they've been working at their current company, if the techs you meet say they've been at their company less than two years, your area is likely to be a "Hire & Fire" area.
    Most people lie about the wages they earn ,so you can get a more direct answer by asking what they think a starting technician would earn at that company.


    * Try to aim for union or commercial work, stay away from residential.
    Companies tend to keep you in the area you started in.
    __________________________________________________ ____


    Sallie Mae "Federal loans": Many people still believe Sallie Mae is a government company , it is not, and hasn't been for years.
    Sallie Mae is not a respectable business either.
    The only thing "Government" about Sallie Mae is a judge will make it harder to file bankruptcy on any loans you take out.

    Sallie Mae split my $8,000 loan into three parts, two smaller Federal loans, one for 8% one for 9%, and one high-interest loan 17%.
    You can't pay off the high-interest loan until you pay off the smallers loans.

    After my first HVAC job came to an end, i had some unforeseeable problems and i couldn't pay my loans for about 4 months.
    During that time Sallie Mae managed to compound my loans to rip me off for another $2,000.

    I was so pissed off , i moved back in with my parents and hit the loans for over $1,000 per month to get rid of Sallie Mae.
    So much for an HVAC job giving me independence.

    I would have been better off placing the trade school bill on a credit card, although, with the last credit card changes, companies can now raise your rates when ever they want, and with a large balance, you better believe they will do it.

    ____________________________________________




    The Mistake We All Make: Everyone thinks they are going to go to trade school, learn the books inside and out, then get a job with a company and prove they are a valuable employee.
    Change this way of thinking.
    Companies don't care.
    Why? i'm not exactly sure, but what i DO know is, a company would rather go out of business than admit they need you.


    _____________________________________________



    SALES BASED COMPANIES: The term "Sales" is a code word for
    * Change from hourly pay to commision,
    * Low pay for what you do,
    * Justification for high prices
    * Pressure to sell a new system rather then fix, to collect more money.
    * Goodbye when the work slows down

    Usually sales based companies will pay commision and drop those commision rates every few years, to the point where you find yourself working for minimum wage.

    According to some business owners, these tactics are coming from companies like Carrier, in-other-words, this system is coming from the top.

    Companies will hire & fire technicians on regular basis, companies don't seem to be too worried about complaints for poor workmanship from their customers.

    Companies who are "always hiring", are always firing.

    __________________________________________________ ________


    The Game: In many states, bisnesses are required to tell you if they plan to hire you on a temporary basis.
    Companies get around this by telling you that your employement is driving them out of business, and trying to make you think you are a screw-up so you will accept the fact they fired you.

    * Running around busting your ass , and the boss says "what were you doing all day?"
    * Sending you to jobs that are far away then telling you , you took too long to get there
    * Any call-back percentage is too much
    * Any sales numbers you pull in are not enough
    * After telling you , you need to increase sales, if a customer gets mad they'll tell you , you tried to rip the customer off.
    * If you fix a unit, they'll say you should have replaced it and made a sale.
    * If you replace a unit, they'll say you should have fixed th unit and saved time & money.
    * You work flawlessly for 6 months, then when there's a problem, the boss is happy he has something to hang you on.

    The bottom line is, you made the company a lot of money and they tossd you the second things got slow.
    __________________________________________________ __

    Unions:
    You'll see a lot of guys says "Work union", "live better".
    yeah , it's not that easy.

    Unions are the most discriminating employment there is.
    They go through you're intire histoy and give you all kinds of testing.
    The bottom line is they hire who ever they want .
    Some even have a question on the application that says "Who do you know who works in the union"

    You could be in an area that hires only white guys.
    you could be in an area that hires only black guys.

    Some people spend 5 years applying for the union.
    People that i know who have been hired , in Los Angeles, got dropped after 6 months.

    If you get into this trade, you should apply for the union, even though it's a big waste of time for most people

    __________________________________________________ _____



    My Experiences:

    I graduated trade school at the top of the class, There's never been a HVAC test i haven't aced, My tests scores were always about 98%.


    Company 1) My first job was in Las Vegas Nevada.
    They said they would pay me $17 per hour plus commissions.
    They said they were starting a training program and they would give us additional schooling
    5 other guys and i were sent to another trade scool for extra training.
    I scored the highest on testing which you would think would be a good thing,
    but my scores caused jealousy between me, the new hires, and the previous technicians.
    The company started weekly training and testing and the new techs were scoring higher than the old ones, the older techs got together and told the company they didn't want to participate in the testing.
    I worked over 60 hours in one week doing warranty work.
    According to the company, $17 per hour, times, 60 hours per week, equals a $300 paycheck.
    The company gave me that check, was giving me a hard time about getting parts, and scheduled me for nothing but compressor replacements, a couple per day.
    I walked off the job after less than 1 year employment.

    Company 2) Back in L.A. i took a job at a sales company.
    This was the only HVAC company i worked at that had common courtesy.
    my largest 2 week paycheck was $900 , my average check was $350.
    The company's prices were so high, we didn't do a lot of work and we only sold one complete install about once per month.
    They fired a guy, like he was nothing, who was doing over 1 million in business for the company, because they caught him doing a side-job.
    I spent 2 years at the company , a lot more than i intended to, because time flew by because the work evirionment was pretty good.
    When the companies prices went from outrageous to unbelieveable, i had to go.

    * I bounced around at some small companies owned by clowns for a while.

    Company 3) This company was a large nation-wide company.
    Believe it or not, they didn't give me a ladder, then would get mad when i wasn't able to complete jobs.
    I stuck it out for a year and half.
    I made $18 per hour plus a lot of OT.
    The company hired some guy who lied about his experience to be the manager.
    The manager walked through the door and said he wanted to start with a new crew.
    The company allowed him to fire me and several other long time employees.

    ______________________________________


    Now I'm either going to try to get into some kind of commercial job, or start my own residential company.


    Conclusion:
    HVAC seems to be a good field if you want to start your own small business, but it seems that if you are looking for a career, companies don't seem to want to pay for this kind of work, and it's probably going to get worse as time goes on.
    Many careers are no longer paying what they used to.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Kingsport Tennessee
    Posts
    4
    That's pretty much the way it is in any field I guess. I started HVAC classes last fall with the idea that I might try to get a small service company going, cause I've pretty much hit the burn out stage in my prior career (18 years of too much stick and not enough carrot can do that to you) but having entered the second semester, I'm not at all sure that would be wise or even possible. Way too much to know, to much to learn in just two semesters at a community college.

    But really, I do hate to hear that. Just seems like the world's wired up backwards. Someone moved the "O" to the "B". I'd love to think I could someday start a business where the principle wouldn't be to make it on the backs of others, but to let others make it on my back, then drag me up as they went. Ah well. Best of luck to you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Washington,NJ
    Posts
    504
    Wolf,
    It seems as though you've had some tough luck in the HVAC field. I've been in for 25 years and have seen more good than bad times. I notice your 39 yrs old, how long have you been in the field? The last five years have sucked as far as work is concerned, I live in the NE, New Jersey to be exact. We have our share of good and bad companies to work for, I've been lucky and have paid my dues. Too many young guys feel as though they should climb to the top of the ladder within a year, not true i'm still climbing it.
    I(my parents) paid 10K back in 1985 for a tech school education, alot of cash but well worth it for me! Good Luck and if i can offer advice send me an email.
    Take Care, Chris

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,008
    the crappy part is they pay just over minimum wage... I liked my job, the boss, the ppl I work with, but at the end of the day, how much am I pulling in? could I feed a family with that much money? living cost kept climbing up yet the wages hasn't been keeping up. I make the same money as a tech with more qualification and experience as I was when I was freshly minted green install helper in another city. but bottom line is I won't go hungry as long as I am willing to go where the job is.

    this field is like real estate. location matter, A LOT. experience is an obvious one so that doesn't need to be mentioned.
    Parts Changer Extraordinaire
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Have tools and gauges, will travel.

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

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    1
    There are two sides of the employee/employer relationship. The problem that I have seen as an employer is that younger people see this business as a get rich quick scheme. Some employers see it as one also so they are more likely to use and lose an employee. I put a lot of energy into every aspect of the development of our people. I find that a person who is totally in it for him or herself will have a much more difficult time moving forwards than the person who is looking out for the best interests of others. In other words I look for employees and customers with high character. It is not easy in this industry, I am not rich, but I have been satisfied with the many wonderful relationships that have come my way through this business. I have tried to find a balance between making a descent living and being able to give back to our employees, community and customers. I have to get to work so I will try and write more at another time.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Veterans Home Yaphank, NY
    Posts
    2,311
    I think I am qualified to talk about this matter as I was an Instructor at Private Trade Schools, Union Halls, as well as a Teacher at a Public School.
    Trade Schools are good as long as you check them out throughly, do not fall for the recruiters sales pitches you will not start out making top salary. Remember they make commission.
    Look to Public Trade Schools and Community Colleges
    Ask in supply house if they know of anyone who would take you on.
    If hired listen to what you are told and do not say "According to what we learned in school" to whom ever you ride with.
    RAM Teaching Tomorrows Technicians Today.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Houston TX
    Posts
    867

    Commercial schools

    Most of the popular schools are multi-classification schools. Many documentaries have been on the news in the last couple of years. You can walk in one door and become a dental assistant, court reporter, accountant, nail technician or oh yeah a HVAC mechanic. They tell you they can get your education financed by the government and they can, that is get their money from the government and as long as they meet some very basic guidelines that really have little to with the actual HVAC industry the governing body gives them accreditation. I had tried to apply to some of these as a ruse to see just what was going on and found they all had a "canned program" method that would make you sit back and say, that can't be right. Several of these schools even "career assistance" which means the government pays some of your wages when you first start a job. The "contractor" gets a minimum wage worker basically paid for by the government and collects from his customer and Uncle Sam at the same time. It is not just for the air conditioning field, it is across the board to all the professions the schools have listed. In return you have to pay off your student loan to the government and pay and pay, etc etc etc and so forth -GEO
    Once in a while everything falls into place and I am able to move forward, most of the time it just falls all over the place and I can't go anywhere-GEO

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Kansas City, Kansas, United States
    Posts
    13,817
    wolf

    WOW!!!!!!!!!

    every single comment you made is true!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I had a job where they told me since I got a 100% on their master mechanic test I would start at journeyman wage!

    I worked 90 hours that week at what should have been about $25 an hour????
    40 hrs at 25 and 50 hours at 37.50

    my first check was for $488!!!!!!!!!!!!
    the owner said that training was at minimum wage and no O/T!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I had about 12 jobs like that and not to start any union/non union fights!!
    I finally got in the union and have been paid for every hour I have worked since!!!!1

    IT GETS BETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    you just summed up my entire 26 year career in one post!

    Frank

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Orange County, in a Galaxy far far away...
    Posts
    273
    I'm as green as it gets for HVAC but my company hired me because they recognized I'm good with people and somewhat technical (screw around with tools, cars, trucks etc.). They shipped me out to Arkansas for a month to UTA to bring my knowledge up to a usuable level for the company.
    They paid for everything and so far its worked out really well. By no mean am I a journeyman level HVAC guy but in 3 months I've learned more than the other techs have done in 9 years!

    As for trade schools I've looked into several to speed up my learning but I'll be saving the money to go back to UTA. It had a great balance of classroom time and practical lab experience and it didn't cost $10k to go there.

    My boss recently interviewed a couple of guys who went to a local scam/trade school and each of them felt the school was a scam to encourage people to take out loans for schooling then not teach them anything.

    So...my experiences have been good and thoroughly enjoyed it, others haven't been so lucky...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Kansas City, Kansas, United States
    Posts
    13,817
    LB
    which Orange Co are you from?
    what is UTA???????????????

    oh and congrats on your new career and welcome to HTALK!

    Frank






    Quote Originally Posted by Lightning_Boy View Post
    I'm as green as it gets for HVAC but my company hired me because they recognized I'm good with people and somewhat technical (screw around with tools, cars, trucks etc.). They shipped me out to Arkansas for a month to UTA to bring my knowledge up to a usuable level for the company.
    They paid for everything and so far its worked out really well. By no mean am I a journeyman level HVAC guy but in 3 months I've learned more than the other techs have done in 9 years!

    As for trade schools I've looked into several to speed up my learning but I'll be saving the money to go back to UTA. It had a great balance of classroom time and practical lab experience and it didn't cost $10k to go there.

    My boss recently interviewed a couple of guys who went to a local scam/trade school and each of them felt the school was a scam to encourage people to take out loans for schooling then not teach them anything.

    So...my experiences have been good and thoroughly enjoyed it, others haven't been so lucky...

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Orange County, in a Galaxy far far away...
    Posts
    273
    Orange County California.

    UTA = Ultimate Technician Academy

    Thanks Frank!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Kansas City, Kansas, United States
    Posts
    13,817
    welcome!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    7
    very interesting topic

    I work in souhtern ontario, and we have a full apprenticeship (5 years) however there are a few trade schools where you can learn refrigeration

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