Get paid while you attend PTC

BY SKYLA LUCKEY, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – The Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, and Heating Technology Program at the St. Pete Campus of Pinellas Technical College (PTC) has a new internship program with Pinellas County that begins next week.

The brainchild of Executive Director of Career Technical Adult Education Mark Hunt, one of his primary objectives was to create a maintenance internship with Pinellas County Schools so that both the students and the county could benefit. Since the county had a difficult time finding qualified technicians, he initiated the program.

Instructor John Lambert

Instructor John Lambert

Students that have met a certain amount of requirements and have completed so many hours can apply for this internship and work part time for the county. The placement comes with county benefits and hourly paid.

Zach started the program in January and is one of the finalists for the county internship. He finds out next week if he’s accepted. Initially the county chose 12 out of many applicants and narrowed it down to four.

He feels that he would make a good intern because he is hard working and dedicated. Within the few months he’s attended PTC his knowledge has expanded exponentially. Zach had no experience with this kind of work prior to enrollment, but with guidance from the instructors he feels confident in the direction he is headed.

“I didn’t know anything about any of this,” he said “but now in just a short period of time, I feel like I know a lot. I like getting out there with the units and charging them with Freon,” he said. “Just finding out what’s wrong with them and why they’re acting weird.”

The Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, and Heating Technology Program have been offered to the community for more than 40 years. Instructor John Lambert heads the course and has taught at PTC for 21 years. He knows all too well of how the program helps students get into the industry, for he was once a student in it.

Joshua, an army veteran and second semester student, checked the high pressure of the air conditioning level as he shared his goals. He feels having a certification from the program will contribute to a successful future. The program takes approximately eight months and he looks forward to graduation in September.

“The main goal is to teach you how to be a technician and not just how to be an apprentice,” said Joshua. “So when you’re out in the field you can actually troubleshoot and diagnose what’s wrong with the a/c system.”

Students gain occupational completion points as they complete parts of the program, which begins with the Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heating Repair Helper course.

“They learn the basic fundamentals of the refrigeration cycle,” Lambert explained, “what makes an air conditioner an air conditioner, what the air conditioning system does and how it does it. The basic components.”

Lambert stressed that safety is a big part of the first nine weeks, which includes training in the areas of soldering, brazing, fabrication and installation of the equipment’s components.

“Students learn all the tools that are used in the industry,” Lambert explained. “Then you move more into the using of the tools, actually getting to work on the live equipment. Everything is a preparation to that last few hundred hours of training where you’re actually working on the equipment.”

He noted that the PTC program offers the most modern, up-to-date equipment that there is in the industry and students get all different levels of hands-on training.

The second part of the program offers training in the areas of electricity, control wiring, equipment commissioning and preventive maintenance operations. Finally they learn about troubleshooting of electrical and mechanical systems, electric heat and fossil fuel heating, and indoor air quality.

Lambert said he’d like to have more women enrolled in the program. In the years he’s taught at PTC, he can count on his fingers how many women have graduated.

“We generally have at least one female out of the 60 or so enrolled adults—sometimes two enrolled in the program,” said Lambert. “It’s unfortunate we don’t get more because the appliance side of the repair business is something that a woman could do. I could see a woman not wanting to do the attic work and things of that nature because it’s hot and you get dirty, but being an appliance technician is in very high demand.”

All the instructors in the program have many years of experience in the field of air conditioning repairs, and many of the students are thankful for their knowledge and teaching. Just ask Jay who assisted his classmates with an a/c unit repair during the interview.

“It’s a lot of information but the instructors are great at what they do,” he said. “I like this program very much.”

Jay is no stranger to good instructions, for the air conditioning program is his second course. When he graduated from the Building Construction Technologies, he quickly enrolled into this program.

If you’re interested in exploring this career path, visit www.pcsb.org/myptc or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available.

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