Many high school students know nothing about power tools, let alone HVAC systems. There are 104 Dulaney High School students currently enrolled in the HVAC program, a two-year course of study, offered at a non-technical school. It is the only program of its kind in Baltimore County and one of the 13 similar programs offered to high school students in Maryland.
The program was housed at the Hereford High School, but with so many students enrolling, school officials had to look for another space. Once the students graduate, they will be recognized at second-year appetences. This puts them a step ahead in obtaining their journeymen license, which will require an additional three years of training.
The HVAC industry is expected to have a 14 percent job growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. HVAC technicians are paid an hourly wage of $13 up to $34. Schools nationwide are adding trades programs in hopes of meeting the need for skilled workers. SkillsUSA is a nonprofit organization that partners with high schools to promote career readiness. The organization currently works with 300,000 students and more than 18,000 students at 4,000 schools throughout the country.
An HVAC instructor at Harford Technical High School in Bel Air, John Bonomo, currently teaches heating, ventilation and air conditioning to 60 students. Nearly 80 percent of his students end up in the HVAC field, working as certified technicians. “There are a tons of jobs out there for people who are willing to work and have the right attitude,” he says.
“You need to know plumbing, electrical and carpentry, but also how to work with sheet metal, refrigerant lines, thermostats and so on,” says Jamie Gaskin, the 37-year-old HVAC teacher at Hereford High School. “There’s also the theoretical side, understanding the chemistry and physics behind it, and learning about environmental impact.