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  1. #1
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    Start BAS/Control job now or finish HVAC apprenticeship first?

    Hi guys,

    I am currently 6 months into a HVAC apprenticeship in the service division side of a commercial HVAC/Mechanical Services company here in Australia.

    I am a licensed Electrician and have been working in the industrial side of the electrical industry for about 8 years prior to starting a HVAC apprenticeship and i am hoping to complete and get signed off in this trade as a refrigeration mechanic in the next 2-3 years.

    My reason for starting a refrigeration mechanic apprenticeship in the commercial HVAC industry was to become dual traded and eventually work in the building automation systems/controls side, as from an outsiders perspective, i thought that having knowledge and experience of both electrical and especially HVAC would be an integral part, if not a requirement, as a controls/bms technician.
    I am also currently completing an electrical engineering associates degree part time along with some self taught online networking/TCP/IP short courses which should hopefully be of good benefit.

    My end game was to apply for some bas/controls companies after i had completed my apprenticeship and was qualified as a HVAC technician which i had prepared to be around 2-4 years.

    However, I had just recently been given an opportunity to work for a bas/controls company as a service tech. While i have learned a lot about the HVAC trade and commercial hvac plant/equipment during my short time as an apprentice, i feel that i do not yet possess the experience/knowledge i need to be successful as a bms tech and now i have a dilemma in choosing whether to first complete my HVAC trade or to jump ship a lot earlier than expected to work in my dream job?

    From those who are working or have worked as a controls/bas tech, what would you do in this situation or any advice you can share?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    First off, welcome to the forum! In my experience, there are too many controls techs out there who know computers and technology but lack a good base knowledge of mechanical systems. I think you are going about things the right way. Don't go for the instant gratification. You will be much better off in the long run and you will be way ahead of the others that took the shortcut. Good luck to you!

  3. Likes heatingman liked this post.
  4. #3
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    Are you paying to learn or being paid to learn? What will be top wage down the road if you take this job? Are you young enough to finish your schoolwork and still make a good wage? ( in the states you don’t really get taken seriously until you have about 5 yrs field experience). I compare it to people that have a PhD do they need that tittle,and that much schooling to do their job? Probably not but some people become obsessed with knowledge. So ask yourself is this schooling a PhD or a necessary evil good luck ( and what reaper says, too many people know the computer but not the equipment.
    Honeywell you can buy better but you cant pay more

    I told my wife when i die to sell my fishing stuff for what its worth not what i told her i paid for it

  5. #4
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    May 2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Reaper View Post
    First off, welcome to the forum! In my experience, there are too many controls techs out there who know computers and technology but lack a good base knowledge of mechanical systems. I think you are going about things the right way. Don't go for the instant gratification. You will be much better off in the long run and you will be way ahead of the others that took the shortcut. Good luck to you!
    I work in controls and it doesn't take long to get up to speed with the basic mechanical knowledge. Depending on what company/controls system you end up working with, the learning curve for controls is very steep. Some companies have very good training programs, other's leave you to sink or swim. If you really want to be in controls ultimately, you can make way more money being proficient with controls than the mechanical. If you have the basic knowledge and don't plan on "hanging your own shingle" I don't see why you wouldn't be looking for a job already.

    Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk

  6. #5
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    See if you can take the job and also continue the education at the same time. On the job training can be a valuable asset to your book learning. You will succeed faster if you can do both.
    No man can be both ignorant and free.
    Thomas Jefferson

  7. #6
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    Thread Starter
    Quote Originally Posted by The Reaper View Post
    First off, welcome to the forum! In my experience, there are too many controls techs out there who know computers and technology but lack a good base knowledge of mechanical systems. I think you are going about things the right way. Don't go for the instant gratification. You will be much better off in the long run and you will be way ahead of the others that took the shortcut. Good luck to you!
    Thanks for the welcome, im hoping to have a sound base in computer, electrical and hvac before jumping into bas controls.

    Quote Originally Posted by crazzycajun View Post
    Are you paying to learn or being paid to learn? What will be top wage down the road if you take this job? Are you young enough to finish your schoolwork and still make a good wage? ( in the states you don’t really get taken seriously until you have about 5 yrs field experience). I compare it to people that have a PhD do they need that tittle,and that much schooling to do their job? Probably not but some people become obsessed with knowledge. So ask yourself is this schooling a PhD or a necessary evil good luck ( and what reaper says, too many people know the computer but not the equipment.
    As an apprentice here in Australia, we are paid by our employer to attend trade school one day per week for 3 years while completing our on the job apprenticeship (so working on the job 4 out of the 5 days but still being paid for 5). However due to me already completing a trade as an Electrician, i am able to get RPL for the electrical subjects which means the trade school will only be 2 years for me to complete.

    Not really sure what the top wage would be as i am not really in it for the money, i was already earning a very high wage for my age as an Electrician due to being in a niche field and i only changed career because i was curious in bas and hvac controls and thought if i didnt make the jump now while im young, it will be too hard to change down the track and i would have ended up regretting not taking the leap into this new career whether it turns out good or bad. However i do know from the bas/controls tech job ads posted that the average wage displayed is around 70-95k. I was earning more in my previous role and more than double what im earning now as an apprentice, however im enjoying this HVAC trade more and more every day so starting at the bottom again isnt so bad.

    I am 26 years old and thanks for the reply.

    Quote Originally Posted by MPeterson21 View Post
    I work in controls and it doesn't take long to get up to speed with the basic mechanical knowledge. Depending on what company/controls system you end up working with, the learning curve for controls is very steep. Some companies have very good training programs, other's leave you to sink or swim. If you really want to be in controls ultimately, you can make way more money being proficient with controls than the mechanical. If you have the basic knowledge and don't plan on "hanging your own shingle" I don't see why you wouldn't be looking for a job already.

    Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk
    Thanks, this is my dilemma. Whether the time taken to get the hands on experience and knowledge as a HVAC tech is worth it before getting into controls or whether i should just jump straight in and learn on the job. A lot of my work as an Electrician was in controls, however this was controls related to certain machines and plant and not building automation, so a different beast i guess.

  8. #7
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    My original background was as an Electrician in a manufacturing plant with heavy PLC, robotics, and automation experience. I learned quite a bit about ventilation and VFDs as well.

    I switched over to BAS/Controls and it is a walk in the park compared to my old job. The pay is also way better. I also work way less hours I used to as well.

    As for the path, it's really personal preference. If you are a quick learner and motivated you should be fine. Just find a good company that has a good backbone.

    Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by WAYNE3298 View Post
    See if you can take the job and also continue the education at the same time. On the job training can be a valuable asset to your book learning. You will succeed faster if you can do both.
    I dont think its possible to take the job in controls whilst continuing the HVAC apprenticeship/tradeschool as i will not be directly working on the specific competencies required to qualify and complete the apprenticeship. For eg. replacing or installing mechanical and refrigeration systems and components.
    Here in Australia, in order to attend trade school as an apprentice and get a qualification in a trade, you have to be working for a company that directly does the type of work you are going to trade school for.

  10. #9
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    Your last posts have done a lot to clarify your position. How long do you think it will take after you finish your apprenticeship to become good enough at mechanical work to move on to what you really want to do and how good do you need to be0.? That will take a few years at best and then more years to be good at controls. If I were you I would evaluate what I needed to be where I wanted to be and how I wanted to get there. I'm not sure you are taking the best path to reach your goal. Your intentions are the best but your approach may not be. Somehow I think you are questioning the same or you wouldn't have ask for advice. Our advice is based on personal experience and only as good as it applies to us personally.
    No man can be both ignorant and free.
    Thomas Jefferson

  11. #10
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    My opinion is finish what you start, but if the pay in considerably higher and you have a family to take care of, take the controls position. I also believe one should install a system of a while before servicing said system but with your strong electrical background that may not apply to you.

    Expat Aussie here (Gold Coast), where are you located?

    kontrol out
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  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by WAYNE3298 View Post
    Your last posts have done a lot to clarify your position. How long do you think it will take after you finish your apprenticeship to become good enough at mechanical work to move on to what you really want to do and how good do you need to be0.? That will take a few years at best and then more years to be good at controls. If I were you I would evaluate what I needed to be where I wanted to be and how I wanted to get there. I'm not sure you are taking the best path to reach your goal. Your intentions are the best but your approach may not be. Somehow I think you are questioning the same or you wouldn't have ask for advice. Our advice is based on personal experience and only as good as it applies to us personally.
    Thanks and yes, i am not sure on what the best path to take to succeed as a controls tech would be and hoping you and others can share your personal opinion on what that would be? (with money not being a factor)

    Quote Originally Posted by kontrolphreak View Post
    My opinion is finish what you start, but if the pay in considerably higher and you have a family to take care of, take the controls position. I also believe one should install a system of a while before servicing said system but with your strong electrical background that may not apply to you.

    Expat Aussie here (Gold Coast), where are you located?

    kontrol out
    Thanks for the reply, i dont have a family, which is a big part of the reason why i was able to take up the career change and back to being on apprentice wages. If i had a family i definitely would have stuck with the cruisy, well paid, but unfulfilling job i had before. At this point, i am happy to take a step back with my finances for a few years if it means a better outcome at the end.

    The only installing i do is when doing upgrades, repairs and replacements of components quoted during the service such as pumps, fans, control panels, compressors, elec components, indoor/outdoor units, FCU's, VAVs etc but never whole systems of a building unfortunately. I am hoping to get a chance to move into the install/commissioning/construction side of the company but because it is a different division run by a different manager it might be a challenge. I will ask my Service Manager if a can do a temporary transfer but none of the apprentices before me in the company have done it.

    I am based in Melbourne.

  13. #12
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    I find the control end of the training is pretty poor here in the states. I got lucky since when I started in '93 since I had a solid background in HVAC, And I was one of the few people who where comfortable behind a laptop. (Transitioning from electric/pneumatic to DDC). A lot of guy's just where happy to just continue with non ddc or retire!
    My current shop is Union and gives excellent training for piping, AC..but little to non for controls. It's really sink or swim here.
    Controls, the cause of... and solution to... all your HVAC problems.

  14. #13
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    It really depends on what you plan to do with controls. Will you be creating the sequence of operations, or just writing the program to match a stated sequence given to you.

    Im a service mechanic, with very little controls experience, but way more then most on the mechanical side. I recently started diving in deeper on the controls side, but more just as a means to an end.

    As a service guy, I hate having to get a controls contractor involved for simple things. So thats my goal with controls.

    But, as a service guy whom is very familiar with mechanical systems, design, and how systems should work, I can tell you that most controls guys and engineers are not really all that good at coming up with good control sequences, or figuring out if a written sequence is any good or not.

    Thats where I think having a stronger mechanical background will help you significantly. Especially on the troubleshooting side. For example, you may be asked why XYZ does not work right, so you look at the written sequence and find its a match to the logic as written in the programming. In that situation if you had a solid mechanical background you would be able to look at the sequence and know its wrong.


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