How ACCA Helped Air-Ref Launch a Training Center

By: Rachel Ryan

Technicians, installers, customer service representatives, and all associates employed at Air-Ref Co., Inc., are the back bone of our corporation, and are the most valuable assets we can invest in, devote ourselves to and rely on. Without their knowledge, motivation and love for the trade we would not thrive as a whole… and would remain rather sweaty without their expertise.

Air-Ref strives to be more than an employer. We have a responsibility to our employees- to empower them, to help them grow, and to help them be unstoppable trouble shooters for anything life throws at them (especially during a heat wave). Air-Ref vigorously fights to stand up to these responsibilities.  

One absolute way we believe that we can achieve these commitments is through training and education. But, how will we continue education in a more impactful and measurable way?

Over the years, for training purposes, we started with the resources that were accessible to us, such as, training information from dealer’s websites, posting questions on forum boards, and looking at new training videos. We’ve signed techs up for training classes, provided in house training, and brought in a field supervisor to support on the job training when a technician needs assistance. We have also provided our technicians with webinars to learn additional skills from many vendors we do business with.

We have acquired a lot of information and now, how are we supposed to utilize it all to be more impactful? We need it to be measurable and have the ability to give our associates a true sense of mastery and knowledge in a specific field or task.

One day, we got an email from ACCA, announcing a live webinar with a fellow ACCA member who has built a successful in-house training program. Eric Knack from Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning was working with ACCA to answer the very questions we’ve been struggling with! We’ve run across Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning in a few online searches and are very impressed with what they’ve accomplished. We wanted to know more!   

For Air-Ref the ACCA webinar was inspiring. They featured was real people who succeeded at what Air-Ref wants was trying to build, had real answers to questions Air-Ref has, provided us guidance as we began to create Air-Ref Co., Inc. University. This peer-to-peer interaction with Eric Knaak, and hundreds of other ACCA members, gave us motivation, perspective, and authentic feedback.

A few takeaways we took from this webinar, which reflect upon daily, are: 1) Just Start, make a list of realistic goals for this year and make a plan to achieve them; 2) Schedule the sessions and stick to those sessions no matter what; 3) Start with a program that has a clear goal - ex: a 30 hour program stretched over 15 weeks with one two hour class a week; and 4) Find out what the technicians want to learn about and truly listen to them.

So, we’ve started! As a company we came up with 2019’s goals and we hit the ground running! Our goals were to develop a program that helped our technicians get Nate certified, to create our first special topic “boot camps” where our team could train on real equipment, and to make it easier for our technicians to test, train and maintain certifications. We also broke ground on a new training facility that covers 3,000 square feet!

We utilized everything and everyone we could get our hands on to teach. We started taking steps towards our goals each and every day. Air-Ref has become a certified Nate and EPA testing facility so we could work with our technicians’ schedules. We created a knowledge bank so the guys have access to study material for all things with HVACR and equipment. Our first associate passed the NATE in house the first quarter of 2019!

Chris Ryan, the President of Air-Ref Co. decided we were ready to bring in a Training Manager to focus on this full time, in addition to our Field Supervisor. We were ready for the next big step towards Air-Ref University. We now sit in the second quarter of the year and we are a NATE Certified Training facility, we are building curricula with purpose, we have factory certified trainers in the building weekly teaching our guys on actual equipment, and helping us learn from a teaching perspective.

We owe a huge thank you to ACCA and Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning for creating this opportunity to learn, to share real experiences, and build a partnership with other driven HVAC companies. Training and education build more than a strong person, it builds an organization one can be proud to work for, increases morale and empowers the whole team. These institutes and companies should be proud of the role they are playing in teaching others to take the next step and we truly appreciate them here at Air-Ref!
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