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DCCCD's Eastfield College offers HVAC careers that run 'hot and cold' all year
By Dallas County Community College District
Jun 24, 2017
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Dallas -- Everyone complains about the weather – particularly long, hot summers, especially in Texas – but only certified technicians can do something about it.  They not only make triple-digit days bearable, but their work is central to every person’s comfort – everyone’s very existence! 

Heating, air conditioning careers are in demand 

Even the best thermostats, fans, compressors and pumps need a little fine-tuning from time to time. Heating and air conditioning specialists save many people from sweltering discomfort or the frosty chill of winter. 

This time of the year, they are welcomed guests at homes and businesses with faltering A/C units. “People hug us when we leave,” said Don Sutton, an instructor in the air conditioning and refrigeration program at Eastfield College. “They tell us, ‘The unit is in there. Go get to it.’ Dallas doesn’t do without air conditioning too well. We like to feel 70 degrees when we come into our houses.” 

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration, or HVAC, is the profession of installers and mechanics whose job is to keep improperly-working parts functioning in homes, schools, factories, hospitals and offices. 

Students who enroll in this program work on motors, compressors, pumps, fans and thermostats.  This career path appeals to individuals who love to work with their hands and solve problems; they are willing to work with all kinds of people, and they possess a knowledge of troubleshooting, diagnosis and repair. 

“If you’re mechanically inclined, the classes are easy. There are all sorts of fields people can go into. In trouble shooting, for example, some people are cut out for finding problems,” said Sutton, who teaches trouble shooting as well as courses in central cooling and heating systems.

Hands-on training is the key to make students successful in the workforce, he added. 

The courses are fun and enriching, and they are taught by passionate, well-respected teachers who are assisting students with crafting their careers. 

Longevity is almost promised in this field. The demand for technicians is ongoing. Those people who have advanced skills and experience can command high-end salaries. “The greater the population growth, the bigger our field grows,” Sutton said. 

Eastfield College HVAC students Mauricio Manzanares-Corona, Jeremy Pender, Jovanni Zavala, Thomas Puskarich, Cindy Walker and faculty member Don Sutton.

Technicians control comfort, improve air quality and make life livable and heat bearable. They also are attuned to winter woes with fixes for thermostats. Refrigeration systems are necessary to store food, medicine and other perishables. 

Although installation is a major component of their duties, technicians also clean air ducts, replace filters, troubleshoot, test and repair – tasks that are high on consumers’ lists of needs. Most HVAC technicians work full time and, during peak heating and air conditioning periods, overtime is guaranteed. The self-employed in this field have the advantage of setting their own schedules. 

Technicians teach consumers to conserve energy 

Energy efficiency is not just a catchphrase. HVAC technicians teach consumers how to be smart about their energy consumption. 

“In our upper-level commercial classes, we talk about energy efficiency,” Sutton said. “We talk about how the equipment differs. The commercial classes are designed so that we can see how to conserve energy in buildings. We try to help save energy. We have thermostats now that will click on to reduce the temperature. We have thermostats that will lock it off and then turn back on. There’s a lot of energy that’s consumed when that machine starts every time.” 

The work is demanding but rewarding, said Sutton. “Technicians are always needed, and the pay is steady,” he added. 

Eastfield College focuses on training for both commercial and residential air conditioning systems. Cedar Valley College, also part of the Dallas County Community College District system, concentrates primarily on residential systems.  Both schools are accredited by the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges. 

HVAC training and careers offer options 

Students can obtain associate degrees in air conditioning and refrigeration or in air conditioning and refrigeration technology. For full-time students, each program can be completed in about two years.  Cedar Valley also offers residential technician certificates that can be completed in two or three semesters. Both schools work with Texas Workforce Solutions to pair students with jobs. 

HVAC is a popular career option for both returning students and recent high school graduates. Jobs for technicians are expected to see a growth of about 21 percent through 2022. That trend is occurring for several reasons: aging specialists are planning to retire; technological advances with more efficient equipment are evolving; and the consumer base is more educated about keeping and maintaining their HVAC systems. 

Median pay for HVAC technicians is about $45,110 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

HVAC students like Darren Jones are learning to diagnose and repair equipment. Maintenance is a key component in keeping the equipment in smooth, running condition and in making the customer happy. 

“I’ve had a couple of (job) offers but they conflicted with my classes,” said Jones, who has two HVAC certificates from Cedar Valley College and is returning to complete his associate degree. “This field is in high demand. I like it because of the job security. I chose DCCCD because of the costs. I get my money’s worth. My goal is to work three years in the field and start my own company.” 

“I have a lot of hope for this field,” said Jones who owns his own onsite car wash business and contracts to deliver automotive materials. “I believe in trying a lot of different things.” 

For more information about the Eastfield College HVAC program, contact Don Sutton at 972-860-7674 or at DonSutton@dcccd.edu. For details about the Cedar Valley College program, contact Loren Hines at 972-860-8192 o at lhines@dcccd.edu.