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It’s Not Hot Air, Leominster CTEi Students Told: HVAC’s Big

March 15, 2019
Russ Esau, an instructor in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, helps sophomore Aaliyah Padilla with her schematic drawing on an electrical problem at Leominster's Center for Technical Excellence Innovation on Thursday. Representatives from local HVAC companies visited the school to talk about opportunities. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LEOMINSTER -- With the growing gap in the number of trade workers who can service, maintain and install HVAC equipment and components, prospective employers are visiting technical schools, like the city’s Center for Technical Excellence Innovation, to scout out new employees.

“We just can’t seem to fill the gap,” said HVAC instructor Jesus Cruz while standing in the shop on Thursday as students gathered to hear from two employers explaining what a great career can be had in the trades.

It was obvious Sally Murphy, the general manager of Ace Service Co., which provides commercial food equipment services, was excited to speak to the CTEi students.

“You are the up and coming. You are the future of this industry,” said Murphy, standing beside Sol Vega, 18, who graduated from CTEi last year and is currently a trainee at Ace Service.

Vega, who CTEi Principal David Fiandaca described as a “poster child” for the technical vocational education, explained to the trade students that typical days are long, but worth it.

“Every day is a new day to learn. Sometimes it’s a long day, but it’s OK, because I’m learning,” said Vega.

While a trainee, Murphy said Vega is treated just like every other employee and has been issued a company cellphone, uniform, a work boot allowance of $100, tablet and a truck, which just happens to be new.

Ace Services work on what are called the “cold” and “hot” equipment in large kitchens.

The cold equipment is refrigeration, like ice makers, walk-in coolers and industrial-sized refrigerators.

Students graduating from the CTEi HVAC program get basic instruction and licensing for the “cold” areas of a kitchen.

And, said Murphy, because federal standards are changing with the type of coolant used in refrigeration, nearly all industrial kitchen refrigeration units will have to be converted or re-outfitted.

“This is an industry can is growing tremendously,” she said.

As for the “hot” areas of a kitchens, mostly ovens, which can be very expensive, there aren’t many vocational schools who train students for that kind of work.

What happens, said Murphy, is once a trainee begins at Ace, an assessment of their skills is made and if someone shows the talent, and attitude, to work on ovens, they are partnered with a senior technician to learn.

That, said Murphy, gives you the “potential to make serious compensation.”

While Tom Wilson, the owner of Wilson Bros. Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., was a little late to make a pitch to the students, he has three ambassadors -- CTEi students who are already training with his Pepperell-based business.

Ian Cassells, 17, Jordan Rix, 18, and Owen Landry, 18, have been working with Wilson Bros. for several months and each said that CTEi training has given them a jump on others looking to enter the trades.

“When we got here, they prepared us for the job and that gives up a head start over other applicants,” said Rix.

They all said the CTEi training also saved them a lot of money for the various licenses they need before they begin working.

As Murphy was wrapping up, she boiled it down: “Think seriously about this. It’s a very good career. You could do very well in this industry.”