Lincoln Tech has 22 campuses located throughout the United States, and they have been educating tomorrow’s workforce since 1946. Lincoln Tech trains its students to enter the workforce in the automotive, skilled trades, health sciences, culinary, spa and cosmetology, and information technology career fields. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
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Bob Martin: Today’s guests on Imagine America Radio is Mike Couling, campus president, Lincoln Tech – Grand Prairie, which is just outside Dallas, Texas. Today’s topic is going to be heating and HVAC. Although Grand Prairie campus has a number of other programs that Mike will talk a little bit about, the primary focus of today’s is going to be heating and HVAC.
Mike Couling: Yes. Thank you so much. We are Grand Prairie. We actually have two campuses here as part of this college, and we’ve been in Grand Prairie since 1966. And again, two different campuses: One at 2915 Alouette—and that’s our transportation maintenance campus, which specializes in automobile technology, diesel technology, collision repair, and refinishing technology. Our second campus is at 2501 Arkansas Lane, and that’s our skilled trades campus, which has welding technology with intro to pipe-fitting, computer numerical control manufacturing (our CNC program), and finally our air-conditioning, refrigeration, and heating technology program, which we refer to as our HVAC program. And I know today we’re going to be talking and highlighting one of those programs—our HVAC program.
Bob: So, let’s go right into heating and HVAC. Tell me something: What is the typical day for one of Lincoln Tech – Grand Prairie’s heating and HVAC students? Class hours, scheduling, hands-on training, that kind of thing, please.
Mike: All right. Our HVAC students, we actually have three shifts. Morning, afternoon, and evening. Each of those shifts is five hours per day, five days a week, so lots of flexibility for the students depending on their personal life. Maybe they have part-time jobs or even full-time jobs. The program itself—10 classes of 120 hours, so it takes approximately 11 months to complete those 1,200 hours. In a typical day, there’s classroom and labs, but unique to the classroom is many times the lab is integrated in the classroom. In fact, in our lab per se, we have industry-approved green trainers, manufacturing by Hampden Engineering—they’re an industry leader in the manufacture of HVAC training equipment.
Our HVAC curriculum covers both domestic and commercial air-conditioning and refrigeration, along with design and layout of those same systems—so the students are exposed to all of that. In an effort to stay on the cutting edge of the industry, we have incorporated green technology into our curriculum. This enhancement covers such items as energy audits, solar power, and more. We also offer, with HVAC, our EPA certification, which is a must for any technician working in the HVAC industry.
Lee Doubleday: All right. Mike, this is Lee with Imagine America Radio. We’re talking to Mike Couling, campus president of Lincoln Tech in Grand Prairie, Texas, just outside of Dallas. Can you briefly explain what an HVAC technician does on the job?
Mike: Certainly. Good question, important question. An HVAC technician is someone that services, installs, or repairs either residential or commercial heating and cooling units. These can be as small as a window-mounted unit or as large as rooftop units that can weigh multiple tons. HVAC technicians can also service and repair refrigeration units like walk-in coolers or freezers, or even reach-in store units that you could find in a deli or supermarket.
Lee: Fantastic. So, can you tell me something else? What does the career outlook look like for HVAC technicians, both on a national level and then, maybe even a little more granularly, where you are in Texas.
Mike: Again, good question, I think for any of the listeners. Anybody that’s interested in that program can go out to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—and there you would find for HVAC technicians generally across the country by 2028, so by 2028 some need for some 400,000 HVAC technicians across our country. And we bring it home to Texas, during that same period, some nearly 34,000 new HVAC technicians are going to be needed.
Lee: Wow. With 34,000 HVAC technicians needed in Texas, and 400,000 across the country, this seems like something that’s really in high demand and would be worth getting an education in.
And so my question for you is—it’s actually a three-parted question. Number 1, should someone go to school to learn how to become an HVAC technician? Number 2, what does a typical program include? And number 3, how long is a typical HVAC program?
Mike: So somebody is interested in coming to school—in this program we teach a lot of basic subjects on air-conditioning, heat exchange, electricity, basic refrigeration systems. We also teach more advanced courses, like air-conditioning design, commercial refrigeration controls and design, warm air heating, and green technology classes I’d mentioned earlier for energy efficiency. With the vast amount of subjects and hands-on practical school exercises, it’s really important that someone wanting to get into the HVAC field first start with an education. A program consists of the 10 classes that are the 120 hours in length and takes approximately 11 months to complete. Upon completion of this program, graduates meet the essential entry-level skills and knowledge required of an HVAC technician.
Lee: All right. Now, Mike, this is Lee Doubleday with Imagine America Radio talking to Mike Couling, president of the Lincoln Tech campus in Grand Prairie, Texas, outside of Dallas.
Now let’s say I’m a student and I’m interested in pursuing an HVAC career. When I’m touring a campus—whether it’s your campus or another campus—what are few things that I should be looking for? Because it seems like a program such as this is going to require the school to have updated equipment in order to stay relevant in current work environments, so what the equipment that the school uses be something I should consider, and what else I should be considering when choosing a school? Is it accreditation? Or maybe even partnerships of employers? I know that’s a big deal.
So, can you kind of run down for what should I be looking for in a school if I’m interested in attending the school to learn HVAC?
Mike: Absolutely. The first thing that—the first question was about the equipment. The diversity of equipment is vital. In the last few years, HVAC has moved to wireless controls, zone controls, and smart technology. Although the basic principles of heating and cooling still apply, the application of this new technology has to be supported by updated equipment, and we’re constantly looking at that.
Your question now on accreditation. Accreditation is important in all of our programs, and we actually have programmatic accreditation in some of our programs. In this case, for HVAC, we have received programmatic accreditation by HVAC Excellence. In fact, we just went through our reaccreditation visit and audit in 2019, and we were granted the highest level of accreditation, a full six-year plan taking us out to 2025. HVAC Excellence is a programmatic accreditation body specific to the HVAC education. Any student seeking that education in HVAC field should ask a prospective school if they are accredited and by what organization.
Lee: All right, Mike. Now I know partnerships and employers is a big deal to students who are considering studying to become an HVAC technician. Can you tell us a little more about the partnerships that your campus has? I’ve heard some really good things about your partnerships with Hussmann.
Mike: Yes. We’re very excited about the partnership we have with Hussmann. In fact, we just recently celebrated our hundredth graduate from that program. So that program is—probably maybe say that it’s similar to a graduate program. We have eight campuses that offer our HVAC program, and upon graduation, the best of the best could be selected for this Hussmann program.
We are the host campus here in Grand Prairie. Hussmann built out some 5,000 square feet of space, provided state-of-the-art—some 28 state-of-the-art—pieces of their equipment. Specific Hussmann curriculum. It’s a two-month course. Any of those students that come to this campus—some come from Grand Prairie as well—for those that need it would be provided housing. We have a one-bedroom in an apartment complex about a block, maybe an exit, from the campus. They’re provided uniforms per diem. And then that specialized training on the Hussmann equipment. Hussmann has been very excited about this program. They’ve seen that the retention of these students has been high, once they enter the program, upon successful completion. These students may be placed in one of the many Hussmann service centers. The students would have already been interviewing as they came to this campus and started that program. And so it’s been really a win-win for Hussmann as well because that gives them the pipeline, their talent acquisition projections of what students are coming in, and what their needs might be for future planning.
Bob: We’re talking to Mike Couling, campus president of Lincoln Tech – Grand Prairie, Texas, just outside Dallas, Texas.
So, Mike, Suppose I’m somebody interested in becoming a heating and HVAC technician. What do you think are the three or four important personality traits that you think make a great student—and then a great HVAC tech to be hired?
Mike: Very important question and something that we discuss and really teach—impart to—our students in all of our programs. Because we can teach them the skills of being that technician, how to work on a piece of equipment. But more importantly, we need to teach them the professional skills because they soon will be the face of that employer.
So, most of our employers that hire our students are looking for some of the similar traits in all of their employees, right? They want somebody who is reliable. So we talk to the students about the importance of coming to class every day. Because employers will look and receive—look at their transcript, which has not only their GPA, their grade point average, but also their attendance. And so certainly that employer is thinking ahead of that graduate and what was their attendance like at the school, thus, what is their attendance going to be like as one of their employees? It’s important to be on time, to be on work every day, to be professional. Their employees are the face of the organization. So, we use Career Edge and we teach the students—we have lesson plans in Career Edge—some of the soft skills that they might need. How to dress neatly, speak professionally. And because they’re service-oriented, because they also need to be hands-on and problem solvers, they need to be able to understand the basics of their field and logically work through issues to resolve the problem. Most employers are willing to provide additional training and experience with anyone who is a good employee and has those basic skill sets.
Bob: Very well done. Thank you very much. Mike, here are my takeaways.
My first takeaway is that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2028 it is projected that there will be a need for 400,000 HVAC technicians across the country. In Texas alone, the growth is expected to be 34,000 HVAC technicians. And that Lincoln Tech is currently training students to enter the workforce as HVAC technicians.
Second thing I hear is Lincoln Tech – Grand Prairie is enrolling students. Interested parties can go to the Lincoln Tech website and get a complete list, by campus, of open houses and upcoming enrollment opportunities.
Finally, I heard you say that you’re more than willing to answer—and want to hear from people that are interested in your school. So, for that, let me just repeat your email address. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’ve been listening to Imagine America Radio. Our guest has been Mike Couling, campus president, Lincoln Tech – Grand Prairie, just outside Dallas, Texas. We’ve been talking about heating and HVAC careers. I want to thank our guest Mike Couling for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with us today. I’d also like to thank our audience for taking time out of their very busy and hectic schedules to download this podcast and listen to this particular episode of Imagine America Radio.
On behalf of my colleague, Lee Doubleday, I just want to thank you and I want to wish you—please be safe. Thank you.