The HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) and Renewable Energies Programs at both the Columbia-Greene Educational Center (CGEC) and the Rensselaer Educational Center (REC) have instructors who bring decades of experience to daily lesson plans. They provide students real-world insight into the field with personal career experience, starting as technicians and eventually becoming owners of their own businesses.
Students in the HVAC program learn a vast array of skills in areas including residential and commercial refrigeration and refrigerants, gas heating, solar energy, electrical wiring and troubleshooting, oil and hot water heating, heat pumps, ductwork and more. When paired with the selection of professional certifications students can earn through the program, graduates are well equipped to begin work in a vital and growing trade.
Mr. Danny Ramirez began his sixteenth year teaching HVAC at REC this fall. His first trade was master electrician. While employed in that field, he was asked to assist HVAC technicians, troubleshooting broken systems and installing the electrical for new systems. He bought his employer’s company when the opportunity arose, getting into business for himself. Mr. Ramirez says being a teacher gives him the opportunity to share his talents and experiences and help make a difference in the HVAC workforce.
Since he started teaching at Questar III, he has introduced solar thermal energy, with students training on a mock roof for safe procedures to install hot water heating systems using the sun, and building performance, training the students in energy-saving opportunities for homeowners.
Ramirez says the use of digital controls focusing on indoor air quality and maintenance of equipment, such as thermostats that remind homeowners to change the air filters or place an automatic service call when a problem is recognized is one of several trends in the industry. In addition, due to the shortage of technicians that is expected to increase as older workers retire, there needs to be more outreach to encourage new professionals, especially more women, to enter this field.
Mr. Michael Veeder, has been the HVAC instructor at CGEC since 2005. His plans to join the Air Force and fly fighter jets after high school took a different turn when he listened to his dad’s advice that HVAC was a great field to get into, and the rest is history! He attended Alfred State College and followed his career pathway to eventually become the owner of Kool Temp Cooling and Heating. It is now a second-generation family business, as one of the students in his first year at Questar III was his son, Michael Veeder, Jr., who didn’t know that his dad was going to be the program teacher until he arrived on the first day of school, to find him in the front of the classroom!
He says he enjoys every aspect of teaching, from the atmosphere at the CGEC to hearing all the success stories that graduates of his program share when they return to visit. Some of that student success is because of the many certifications that are offered, including OSHA, CPR, EPA, R-410-a, ESCO Technician Excellence Gas Heat Plus and Customer Service, as well as the college credits available through the program.
Veeder says the technology in the industry is constantly changing, from new advances such as the ability to control your heating/cooling systems from your smartphone, to the trend for energy auditing and efficiency. He assures us that students will continue to learn the skills they need for installation and service of these systems to keep up with all the advancements in technology. In addition, through classroom work and internships in the field, he hopes to continue connecting graduates with employment opportunities.