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Lennox International has chosen Salina Area Technical College, Salina, Kan., to test a new educational initiative the company is launching to reverse a growing shortage of HVAC technicians across North America.
“This is a pilot program for the country,” said Bill Roberts, Kansas Field Technical Consultant for Lennox. “Our end game is to work more closely with vocational schools to help get more people into the business, and help schools get the equipment they need.”
Toward that goal, Lennox has donated equipment worth about $11,000 to Salina Tech, including two complete residential HVAC systems for students to learn on.
“The median age of a service technician is the mid-50s,” Roberts said. “There’s a huge shortage of people now, and it’s going to get worse. We want to get more people into the industry.”
“In the HVAC industry in the U.S. and Canada, we’re short about 25,000 technicians,” said Mike Moore, director of training for Lennox at the company’s Dallas headquarter. “There are a lot of guys who are retiring, and that number will go to 100,000 in a few years if we don’t do something.”
Moore said the plan is to try to help Salina Tech attract more students to its HVAC program, and spread the word that “you can make a good living in this business.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC technicians in north-central Kansas earn an average of about $40,000 a year.
Salina Tech is the first of about 48 technical colleges across North America Lennox is planning to establish partnerships with, Moore said, providing them with equipment, curriculum and visits from the company’s own technicians.
Lennox looked at numerous technical colleges before selecting Salina Tech.
“Our Kansas people were very impressed with Salina Tech in terms of both the resources and the people there,” Moore said.
“People from the corporate office and I went around and visited several of the tech colleges to decide who we wanted to start with,” Roberts said. “We decided we wanted to start with Salina Tech.”
Roberts said he’s long known Salina Tech HVAC instructor Chad Townley. Roberts is national co-chair of the HVAC division of SkillsUSA, a nationwide organization that promotes technical education and hosts state and national competitions in a variety of technical skills each spring.
“Chad has been a big supporter of SkillsUSA,” Roberts said.
In addition, Roberts said, Salina Tech has opened its classroom space for Lennox to train its dealers across the state.
Salina Tech’s HVAC program offers students a nine-month program leading to a Technical Certificate, and a two-year program leading to an Associate of Applied Science degree. High school students enrolling in the program at the start of their junior year can earn the Technical Certificate by the time they graduate from high school. Tuition for high school students is free.