November 8, 2023, 12:00 p.m.
Workforce Institute, Rm. 1171
Nancy Sweet, Derek Matlock, Mike Readenour
Members in Attendance
Paul Ray, Air Masters; Deanna Shepherd, Dick Van Dyke; Kirk Patton, E.L. Pruitt; Don Dennison, Rogers Supply; Scott Eddings, Local Union 137; Ryan Mendenhall, Prairie State Plumbing & Heating; Jesse Kater, Total Mechanical Service; Ryan Reid, Total Mechanical Service; Bill Walter, A&R Mechanical Contractors.
- Introduction of students and lab tour
- Program Updates
- Discussion of Work-Based Learning Opportunities and Job Shadowing
- Describe your "Future Employees"
- Concluding Comments
1. Introduction of students and lab tour
The PAC met at 12:00 p.m. and began the meeting with a tour of the HVAC lab. The meeting continued in W1171 with introductions and an explanation of the purpose of the Program Advisory Committee.
2. Program Updates
We listen to industry feedback during our PAC meetings. Employers told us that their entry level employees did not have good communication skills. We created ESI 101 in response. In this class students are taught employability skills like listening and communication among other soft skills. Industry employers also told us that it is difficult for their new employees who are coming into the field who have no experience, hence we created job shadowing in our courses. We have also included OSHA 10 training along with a stronger focus on safety/liability.
3. Discussion of Work-Based Learning Opportunities and Job Shadowing
Job shadowing is not a free employee or a job placement, it is the student observing. More and more, students are coming to LLCC with no previous knowledge or experience in the field. Job shadowing is an eye-opening experience for our students. They are covered under LLCC insurance which should relieve company concerns. Safety is key in every job shadowing experience. The PAC members agreed that job shadowing is an important experience and can help foster relationships between industry and potential employees. PAC members talked about the lack of knowledge and perseverance that applicants and first-time entry level employees have.
In our program we start with the basics. Students purchase and use their own tools and are taught how to use them as well as how to use our lab tools. We work with students trying to match their skills to employers/specific fields so that they will meet with success. It is not unusual for students to change their minds about potential employment opportunities many times over the course of the program. It is our goal to produce moldable, trainable employees for our industry partners.
PAC members were encouraged to come to classes as guest speakers and allow us to bring students to tour their facilities. They were asked to fill out an employer form delineating how they would be interested in partnering with us. Job shadowing would be good to do for 1-2 weeks for half days. Night students might be able to job shadow during the summer. It would be helpful for them to see a job through from start to finish. We are willing to match students to each employer’s needs and timeframe. Feedback and communication from employers about our students are crucial so that we can address issues as they arise. Positive feedback can also be used for recommendations for students seeking employment. Sending each student through for a day might work as well. This provides chances for networking.
Our program is a 9-month program which covers the basics of HVACR. We do not focus on advanced training. We heard feedback from employers that our students couldn’t use meters and R290 so we are addressing both of these concerns. We introduce students to wiring schematics and teach flow/schematics. Industry needs employees that can work with customers. It might be helpful to give students two job shadowing experiences, one at the beginning or midway through the program and one toward the end. Wholesalers/supply houses also offer classes. Having Derek and Mike on email lists for these would be very helpful. It is also possible to use the Workforce Careers Center facility as a location for these classes or other continuing education workshops. This would help us to keep up to date in the industry.
We are teaching butane, but it looks like it will be phased out in 2026. We are looking into teaching lock ring. It would be helpful to expose students to as much as we possibly can: microwaves, machines, etc.—all of it in order to hopefully spark an interest. Scott asked if we are going to push a more commercial slant in our program and offer any advanced level training. .
4. Describe your “Future Employee"
Industry needs employees who: come to work and show up on time, know theory, will work set hours, will be willing to make sacrifices and work the hours, who will do a background check, have the attitude of being able to save the day for someone, and have loyalty to their employer. Employers can’t even get applicants to show up for interviews or call back. Our students tend to think they are going to make more in an entry level job than they are. Students think they will make $40-$50 an hour initially when reality is more like $15-$20. Several companies need 1-2 apprentices right now, and the union does as well. Job shadowing will help with this because it will help foster relationships between our students and the companies they job shadow with. We can’t force students to take a particular job, but we can require them to job shadow.
5. Concluding Comments
PAC members were invited to come see how our program works, and they gave overall positive feedback about our program. Members were invited to stay and network, and the meeting was concluded.