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HVAC technicians carry out a wide variety of jobs that require skill and knowledge on a daily basis. Like any other trade, one of the most popular routes to learn and master the role is through a traditional apprenticeship, which involves the apprentice working under the supervision of an experienced mentor.
The mentor holds the title of master, which essentially means they have mastered the role and so will be well equipped to help you excel in the vocation too. An apprenticeship is an alternative route to take, meaning you learn through hands-on experience instead of attending a vocational course at an educational institution. To learn about other routes and what HVAC Certification involves make sure to check out our guide.
Once you have completed the apprenticeship, the next step is to sit and pass the certification exams in order to become a licensed journeyman in the HVAC industry. Both the vocational route or an apprenticeship are viable routes to take into the HVAC industry; however, many people prefer apprenticeships since they offer on-the-job training. Additionally, an apprenticeship gives you the ability to earn money and typically avoid paying tuition fees.
During an HVAC apprenticeship program, you will spend most of your time on the job gaining hands-on experience. Typically you will also receive classroom lessons a few times each week, where you will learn about key principles and concepts all good HVAC technicians and installers need to know. Programs typically begin with modules covering basic math, basic electricity, basic refrigeration and the heating cycle.
Although work experience in the industry is a fundamental part of all HVAC apprenticeships, students usually have some time to secure a placement in the industry, on average up to 2 years, meaning the first two years of the program can consist solely of classroom learning.
As the apprentice progresses, the topics covered will become more complex and related to real-life scenarios that are likely to be encountered on the job and in the industry. This includes refrigeration installation, wiring and testing, boiler and heat pump troubleshooting and brazing and soldering.
Another fundamental part of being an HVAC technician and contractor is the codes and regulations that need to be followed in accordance with the law. Therefore, all good apprenticeships and other routes that lead to HVAC technician roles will teach you about the relevant codes and compliance requirements, both at a state level and federal level. This includes licensing, certification requirements and EPA regulation.
How to Get an HVAC Apprenticeship
If you like the idea of becoming an HVAC apprentice, there are many routes you can take to secure one. As mentioned previously you can apply for an apprenticeship program at a trade school or other educational institution, but you will need to secure yourself a work placement, typically by the second year of study.
The best place to start your hunt for an HVAC journeyman willing to mentor you is to scout out local HVAC business owners and contractors looking for an apprentice. This is often the way most people get a foot in the door, however, if you don’t see many openings advertised in your area, the next best thing is to approach them directly.
Don’t just call them up either, you need to make an impression, therefore, go to the business in person and be ready to make your case as to why they should take you on as a new apprentice. Ask to see the owner and make sure you bring an up to date copy of your resume to leave with them, as well as a form of identification, social security number and your transcripts from school and college.
Make sure you show some passion as to why you want to work in the HVAC industry and more specifically why you want to work for their business. A good place to begin is to highlight the benefits of gaining hands-on experience instead of pure theoretical knowledge in the classroom.
If the business doesn’t seem willing to take you on as an apprentice be prepared to offer to help out for free on weekends or whenever is convenient for them. This is often a great way to reassure them that you would be a reliable and passionate apprentice and a potential asset to the company.
If that route does fail another option is to get in touch with your local union, for example, the United Association sponsors an apprenticeship training program on an annual basis. You can make an application on this page. Be aware that applicants need to meet certain requirements including holding a high school diploma or equivalent and passing both a math exam and drug test. All applicants also need to hold a driving license.
Another option is to look out for local companies and nationwide companies that operate annual apprenticeship programs in your area. A great example is Johnson Controls, so if you have a local branch, make sure to check their official website for updates.
A number of states even run their own apprenticeship schemes or at least can point you in the right direction. Therefore, it’s always worth talking with your state’s HVAC licensing board or other relevant bodies.
How to Get an HVAC Apprenticeship
Here are the many advantages of choosing the apprenticeship route:
Accredited Apprenticeships are extremely worthwhile; however, always ensure that the apprenticeship program you enroll onto satisfies the requirements of the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT).
The duration of HVAC apprenticeships largely depends on the state and stipulation of the licensing in the area. Typically in order to pass an apprenticeship program, a certain amount of experience of on the job training is required prior to sitting the necessary HVAC certification exams and applying for a license.
The period of apprenticeships can last anywhere from 2 to 6 years, which depends on a variety of factors including previous industry experience and state requirements. Other locations only ask that you complete a set amount of hours and fulfill certain criteria, in which case you can complete your apprenticeship within a shorter period of time.
An apprenticeship is for individuals with little knowledge or experience in the field, therefore, a license is not required as an apprentice will not be carrying out any work independently. Instead, apprentices are supervised and under the watchful eye of an experienced HVAC journeyman mentor who does hold all of the necessary certifications and licensing. This is because they will be responsible for ensuring all work is completed safely and in accordance with the necessary rules and regulations and not the apprentice.
Occasionally, HVAC mentors may ask for candidates to complete some preliminary training in the HVAC industry, while others are fine with accepting candidates with no previous training at all. It’s also common for individuals who have completed HVAC certification training on an accredited program to become apprentices afterward since many businesses demand candidates to have both certification and industry experience.