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High School Program Attracts Kids to Refrigeration

In an effort to attract more young people to the industrial refrigeration industry using natural refrigerants, a high school in Azle, Texas, is taking a novel approach. By offering a fully dedicated ammonia refrigeration class, the school gives students unprecedented hands-on training, meaningful work experience and even industry credentials long before their peers are even considering what their careers might be.

Marcos Braz, president of MRBraz & Associates and former Foundation Chair, who was instrumental in getting the program off the ground, says Azle High School is forward-thinking in the sense that it’s working to prepare students not only to be successful in a traditional four-year college but also for careers in skilled trades. He worked with Azle’s new Tech School, which is looking to fill educational gaps, to develop an industrial refrigeration course to help the industry gain exposure and to help young people develop the skills necessary to enter the labor market.

One of the first hurdles to overcome, Braz said, was to define industrial refrigeration for both students and faculty. The common misconception is that the industry deals with air conditioners and HVAC systems that use synthetic refrigerants, he said, when in reality it’s directed greatly to the food storage and process rather than comfort cooling. Explaining its important role in the day to day of modern society was necessary. But once everyone was on the same page, the school’s interest was piqued, and they wanted to know more.

“We worked together to develop a building plan that utilized about 30 feet by 40 feet for equipment layout and training and we made the intention of the class clear,” Braz said. “A presentation was made to the board to show the potential of employment for the kids after they leave high school.”

The Azle High School refrigeration facility was constructed with financial support from Azle High School and equipment donations from local refrigeration companies and end users. It was up and running by August 2017.

Braz developed the curriculum to cover the most basic concepts to more advanced refrigeration theory, using materials from the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration and Refrigeration Engineers & Technicians Association, he said. After students, who were sophomores, juniors and seniors, went through a two-semester-long course, they were given RETA’s certification test. Of the eight students who took the test, six became certified.

Braz said he hopes that the success of this class will prompt other schools to consider similar programs. There is a tremendous need in the industry for new talent, and if gaps aren’t quickly filled, many businesses may face a crises. “We need to generate hundreds of new technicians to make natural refrigeration viable. We need skilled individuals entering the industry to keep natural refrigeration alive.”

“To change an oil filter on an ammonia compressor, you typically end up hiring a technician with 15 years of experience,” Braz said. “[In today’s workforce] this is difficult to find.”

The success of the Azle refrigeration class has created excitement in the industry, Braz said. Course graduates were given the opportunity to attend the IIAR conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., where they were received well and became more intimately familiar with the industry and were also introduced to its key players. “It was a great visit for these kids,” Braz said. “I think it was a life-changing experience.”

CIMCO Highlights NHL Green Initiative

In late February, the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation helped coordinate a meet-and-greet event to promote the natural refrigeration industry and joint member involvement in the upcoming National Hockey League (NHL) Stadium Series. During the event, participants were given a first-hand look at how ice is created and maintained at NHL events. CIMCO Refrigeration, IIAR/GCCA is leading the process as the preferred supplier of refrigeration equipment to for the NHL, having installed 80 percent of the ice in the league’s facilities. CIMCO’s ice creation and maintenance practices fall in line with the NHL’s Green initiative, which emphasizes the need to make outdoor hockey games a reality – even in warmer climate cities, such as Annapolis – and to do so in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly manner. For the rink at the Naval Academy, CIMCO is using ammonia, a natural refrigerant, with glycol pumped through a 53-foot, 300-ton capacity mobile refrigeration unit to create the up to 2 inches of ice needed to sustain the outdoor rink.

The group was hosted by Lois Stirewalt O’Connor, the Foundation’s executive director and Lowell Randall, Government Relations of IIAR and GCCA. In attendance were representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Hiring our Heroes program, the Department of Defense, the Soldier for Life program, SkillBridge, and the ASHRAE Student members from the University of Maryland. Additionally, twelve students ranging from Sophomores to PHD candidates were in attendance.

The NHL Stadium Series showcases just one of the exciting ways ammonia technicians and operators can use their skills in the workplace. “We had a wonderful opportunity to help share a practical – and fun – application of ammonia in terms folks can understand,” O’Connor said. “Government officials, students and transitioning military all had a chance to better understand this safe and natural refrigerant. “

IIAR Puts Resume Engine to Work

For many service members transitioning to civilian life, creating a resume that bridges the gap between their military service and a professional occupation is a daunting challenge. That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Program developed the Resume Engine — a digital tool help transitioning service members draft resumes that will translate their military skills and experience into language applicable to the civilian job market.

The Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation is using this tool to help employers in the refrigeration industry to fill empty positions with transitioning military personnel. Many of these individuals possess the skills needed for a successful career in natural refrigeration, but they simply don’t have access to it. “The Foundation’s support and partnership with Hiring Our Heroes provides immediate access for our member companies to identify, recruit, and hire qualified talent for the refrigeration industry,” Foundation Executive Director Lois Stirewalt O’Connor said.

The foundation provides members with the ability to post job openings in the Resume Engine’s database that provides qualified veterans access to over 60,000 job titles. The Foundation views the Resume Engine as a mutually beneficial tool; not only does it help veterans prepare for a life in the civilian workforce, but it also provides members with access to a uniquely qualified and talented labor pool consisting of the best and brightest America has to offer.

“The natural refrigeration industry has over 40,000 jobs available,” O’Connor said. “Recruiting, training and hiring transitioning military, veterans or family members is not only ‘the right thing to do’ but also it makes sense. These are qualified personnel with similar skill sets and values that match our industry needs.”

Hiring Our Heroes

On Thursday, April 11, more 300 military personnel transitioning out of the military, and their spouses, participated in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Hiring Our Heroes Transition Summit” at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del. The event was co-sponsored by the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation.

The day-long session was designed to help veterans transition from military to civilian life. At the event, the veterans participated in workshops to develop their interviewing skills, had access to career counselors, and were given effective tactics for online job searching.

The Foundation sponsored the event as part of its ongoing outreach efforts not only to educate the general public about the importance of ammonia and other natural refrigerants, but also to encourage veterans and others to consider this industry as a viable and rewarding career.

The Foundation spearheaded one of four industry panels that participated in the event. Walter Teeter, Chair of the Foundation Board: Jim Price from the Refrigeration Engineers &Technicians Association; and Laura MCCann from Burris Logistics participated. Also attending were Werner Paulus of RDS and Melissa Cassal of General Refrigeration. All brought job listings and reported positive interactions with the attendees. The Foundation team collected about a dozen resumes and are working to follow up with job seekers.

The Foundation was able to obtain a seat at this important table and move our industry forward due, in part, to the financial contributions of corporate members. Access like this can be time-consuming and challenging for contractors and small businesses that don’t have a dedicated military outreach team like most larger manufacturing companies enjoy, so your ongoing financial support will enable the Foundation to continue to participate in these and other training, recruiting and hiring opportunities.

To find out how you can help #MakeAmmoniaGreatAgain by participating in future hiring summits, please contact the Foundation Executive Director, Lois S. O’Connor