Efforts Underway To Recruit Propane Service Techs

To grow gallons, the propane industry must recruit and develop technicians who can service and sell propane appliances. So says Mike Davis, president of Davis Propane (Cochran, Ga.). He says the industry must introduce students to propane when they are in middle school and high school, and must provide a curriculum for propane appliances they can study when they are in technical school or community college.

Tech School Training For Propane Service Jobs 062019 BPNDavis has been doing just that by working with schools throughout the state of Georgia. He began this effort four years ago. His company, an independent propane company serving middle Georgia, had been losing business to heat pumps. “I went to a local HVAC dealer and asked why they weren’t selling gas units,” Davis told BPN. “He said they didn’t have people to work on gas units because the students weren’t taught about them in technical schools.”

Davis took this message to his industry peers in the Georgia Propane Gas Association (GPGA). In a roundtable discussion, the board decided to make working with technical schools one of the association’s priorities. He then met with one of the local technical schools and learned that they weren’t teaching gas because they didn’t have the curriculum. Next, Davis contacted the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). In just a matter of months, PERC developed a curriculum for HVAC classes in technical schools. Davis then met with all the technical schools in Georgia and showed them the PERC material. After reviewing it, the schools added it to their HVAC curriculum. GPGA then donated gas furnaces for use in training to every technical school in Georgia.

“The schools I’ve talked with are hungry for curriculum,” Davis says. “They were glad to hear about the PERC curriculum that will help them teach gas in the classroom.” “Now their students can work on gas appliances and introduce them to their customers,” he adds. “There are 930 students in the HVAC programs at the 22 technical schools in Georgia. Those students will be in the field, growing the workforce and growing gallons.”

Next, this will be a pilot program for a national apprenticeship program being developed by the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA). Also working on this project are PERC, GPGA, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Georgia Office of Workforce Development. Davis also has been striving to recruit students to attend those technical schools and sign up for HVAC classes.

Technical School Training For Propane Service Techs 062019RECRUITING STUDENTS
For example, Davis Propane participates in a career day at a middle school every year. “They say, ‘There’s the gas man!’ We take a service truck and a bobtail and we let the kids jump in. We familiarize them with what we do. Their next questions are, ‘How much can we make?’ and ‘Do we have to go to school?’ We tell them what they can make and that they don’t have to get a four-year degree; they can work part time and go to school part time. We also give them literature to take home that shows what propane does in homes and farms. We have to teach everyone that we have a clean, green product that provides heat.”Tech Schools For Propane Service BPN 062019

For students who are nearing the end of their time in high school, NPGA offers several scholarships. “We need to recruit HVAC students out of our high schools,” Davis says. “An instructor told me that you’re not going to get the college-bound kids, but you can get those who are in the undecided median.

If those kids leave school with no prospects, they’re going to get in trouble. We need to get them into an HVAC program before then.”

“We need the technical schools for workforce development and for growing gallons,” he adds. “We need people in the industry to get involved with the schools so they know about propane, which is the cleanest fuel we have. When gallons were growing, we didn’t sell what we had, so it stopped. Now we are having to catch back up. The technical schools can help.”  — Steve Relyea

(©Butane-Propane News, June 2019)