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Utilities Address HVACR Education.

When HVACR instructors gather to learn, they expect to hear about new technologies just around the corner that they need to integrate into their training.

However, equally important is to learn about what is not being covered effectively in current HVACR Education and what they can do to change it.

Shortly before Anne Marie Blankenship, an HVAC Program Manager at Southern California Edison (SCE) took the stage at the HVAC Excellence National HVACR Educators and Trainers Conference in Orlando, Florida, some instructors inquired why a California utility was speaking at a national conference in Florida.

Once Ms. Blankenship took the stage people quickly understood that Southern California Edison (SCE) is leading the way in developing energy efficiency programs in the United States. There is a good chance that wherever an HVACR instructor lives, their local utility is watching SCE and using their programs as a model for their own.

Ms. Blankenship was quick to ask the attendees "How many of you have heard of Title 24? How many of you are familiar with the Western Performance Alliance?"

With silence throughout the room she began to share some statistics of a study of residential HVACR equipment:
72% are over sized
68% are improperly charged
70% have inadequate airflow
91% remains unchecked for combustion efficiency.

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If you analyze the complaints from utilities on energy efficiency pertaining to HVACR systems and compare them to the manufacturers problems with false warranty claims, and contractor callbacks, you will find out they are the same problem from three different points of view. It is imperative we teach proper equipment sizing, critical charging procedures, airflow, psychrometrics and combustion analysis.

Blankenship explained that SCE HVAC Optimization Program is a visionary paradigm for HVACR programs to holistically approach to the whole building and to integrate workforce education and training scaffolds throughout to ensure successful implementation. Through crosscutting utility program knowledge and resources, key stakeholder outreach and investment, and leveraged partnerships, SCE and valued partners have been able to effect a significant change in approach to installation, maintenance, and service in effort to transform the market.

SCE's unique approach to HVACR programs includes a strong workforce training component. Technicians must hold an approved industry recognized credential and attend program targeted technical training prior to full participation.

Technicians must also take pre and post training tests as well as successfully pass a hands on performance assessment prior to doing program work. This ensures the technicians working on a specific task have been trained and have the retained knowledge necessary to perform the task.

To grow a stronger, more credentialed workforce, SCE collaborates with industry recognized training organizations to offer free and highly subsidized courses. One such example is www.itsaboutq.net which is an online accredited HVACR school. Upon entry, a technician will take a technical core assessment, and a personal education plan will be generated. Once the recommended courses have been successfully completed, the technician will receive a test voucher for their NATE or HVAC Excellence certification exam.

A key takeaway of the presentation is that utility companies can help HVACR educators in identifying weaknesses in their educational programs. Working together, instructors and utilities can forge a great partnership to meet the needs of industry. The best way to accomplish this is for instructors to invite their local utilities to participate in the program advisory meetings.

Ms. Blankenship's presentation can be viewed online at http://www.hvacexcellence.org/nhetc/Archive/2015/Home.aspx.


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