KC HVAC Program Takes Part in Career & Technical Education Month

February 14, 2018

The Kaskaskia College HVAC program trains students to install, service and repair residential and commercial air conditioning, refrigeration and heating systems.

Professor of the HVAC Program, Mark Kohnen says that students in the program will deal with a large variety of issues relating to the heating, cooling, ventilation and refrigeration. He adds, “My students will be trained on air conditioning and heating homes and businesses, ventilating kitchens and bathrooms, both residential and commercial. We also are trained on refrigeration, so working on very small coolers and freezers to very large systems as well.”

Students will study physical, mechanical, and chemical principles of refrigeration and air conditioning with emphasis on electrical controls and motors. Students will also gain proficiency in blueprint reading, sheet metal construction, proper ventilation, installation, heating and cooling diagnosis and installation of residential and commercial equipment.

Kaskaskia College HVAC provides lecture in the classroom and online. “We offer a hybrid section to each course that allows students to do some of the lecture on their time. We also offer many hours of hands on training in the lab. Students will work on wiring and electrical skills, refrigeration and air conditioning. Gas heat and electric heat. Geo-thermal heating and cooling is also in the training”, says Kohnen.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Candidates familiar with computers and electronics and those with good troubleshooting skills will have the best job opportunities as employers continue to have difficulty finding qualified technicians to work on complex new systems.

Kohnen adds, “Just as any starting pay, contractors will usually start graduates at a lower pay scale, but will realize they will have to pay them a good salary at some time in order to keep a great employee. Many HVAC students after graduation may join a union craft. These students will most likely serve a 4-year apprenticeship and at the end of that four years will be making nearly $70,000 dollars annually as long as they are punctual, have great attendance at work and are indeed learning everyday what they need to learn in order to become a journeyman”.

“As an HVAC instructor, I usually have three job openings at a time where companies are in need of someone in the very near future. Some areas where we have a hard time meeting those needs are location of the job, student’s graduation time, and specifics of the job in relation to the students desire to engage in that area of the trade’, says Kohnen.

Kaskaskia College continues to reinforce to the community and the KC district the urgent issue regarding the critical skills gap regarding the lack of trained labor in the vocational trades.  Kohnen says, “The average worker in the HVAC trade is in their mid-50’s. We need that number to change drastically. There is a vast shortage of HVAC tradesman across the nation. That shortage is bad for the nation, but is starting to pay off for the worker in salary and benefits due to contractors needing a skilled person”.

Professor Kohnen has been around HVAC since he was a small child. “My uncle owns a successful business that I have been involved with since I was likely 13 years old. At that time, I cleaned out trucks, swept floors and did odd jobs in the shop. This led me to go on to college for HVAC and I graduated when I was 19 years old. I have been full time in the HVAC trade now for 27 years. I have successfully completed a certification by HVAC Excellence to become a CMHE. (Certified Master HVAC Educator). This is a difficult certificate to obtain. At the time of my testing I was one of 80 across the nation to indeed pass the certification testing”.

In recognition of Career and Technical Education Month, Kaskaskia College will be hosting an open house at its Crisp Technology Center on February 23rd, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Please come visit our vocational trade center and we will be delighted to give you a tour of our state of the art facilities and display some of our modern technology in our newly renovated labs and classrooms.

For more information about postsecondary career and technical education programs and services at Kaskaskia College visit www.kaskaskia.edu/CareerTech or contact the college at (618) 545-3000). To learn more about statewide career and technical education initiatives throughout Illinois visit www.iccb.org/cte.

Pictured at right is HVAC Professor Mark Kohnen.