Jay Brooks, a veteran skilled tradesmen teaching the next generation of skilled trade technicians

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Hey guys, Martin King here. This is our series that we’re doing on skilled trades and skilled trade journey. And I got an opportunity. It took us a while to get here, mostly because of me. But I finally got a chance today to get with Jay Brooks. And this is the first interview I’ve had with somebody who’s committed their career to training the next generation of HVAC techs. So in electrical tax, so I’m really super excited about this particular interview. More more, I like all of them. But this one I’ve been really excited about, because training has been one of my passions for many years. So Jay Brooks, welcome to the show today.

Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Yeah, well, like I like to do on most of the shows is kind of start back from the beginning, maybe at the point where you were in school, and you decided you made a choice to go towards skilled trades. And so let’s start there. And then I want to hear about what definitely hear about what you’re doing now, training the next generation of people.

So no school, I dropped out of school dropped out of school in the beginning of ninth grade. Okay, and I was really doing nothing with my life, I was working on a patio that was between two homes, and one of the air conditioners broke. So this old guy showed up with a beard down to his belt buckle and a ponytail down to his button was working on the air conditioner, and I started talking to him. And at the time, minimum wage was $4 an hour. And he offered me $9 an hour to learn how to do air conditioning. So I jumped on a truck with them and rode around for three months. And every day after work, we went up to his place and worked on a 1976 Chevy cargo van with an inline six. And that was my first service vehicle. So after three months, I was out on my own doing installs, doing service work, learning, struggling fighting. The teacher that I had with me all the time was the book modern refrigeration. Yeah. The eighth edition. So that’s that’s how old I am. I’m that old. So I did that with him for four years. He only hired two other guys while I was working for him. And then he had a family situation happen and basically had to go out of business. But as far as employers, he was the best employer ever had. We only did residential. Everybody knows that residential really slows down in the winter. He was a little tiny company. But he paid my rent for me, he bought me food in my car insurance during the winter. And then when summer would come along, I’d work 100 hours a week and pay him back. So we did that for cheese like for years. And then when he went out of business, I went to work for another company that I worked for probably four years. But they did a little bit of commercial work, real light commercial work, hair salons, things like that. So they were still residential equipment. They were just on a commercial building. And I worked for them. And then my wife and I decided that that we were going to have a child. And we were going to need insurance. And this company didn’t offer any insurance. So I left that company. So real quick backstory on that is I’ve known my wife since she was six and I was 14. We basically grew up together. And then that company that I left to find insurance, they actually hired her made her my service manager. And then she handled all of that stuff for the four years that I was there. And then I left there and went to another company that only did industrial stuff. So everything I went to work on was was big chillers and things like that. So that was scary for me, but best paying job I ever had because they were union. So they paid union wages. But we’re in Arizona so right to work state. I didn’t have to join the union to work for him. But they paid the best and then they had an upset after two or three years. They brought a guy in from somewhere else that started losing all the big accounts. So they let a bunch of us go and then later found out that he was stealing the accounts and giving him to his buddies that he also brought from New York with him. So there was a whole thing there. They came back asked me to come back I told him no because it was scary for me now I felt unsafe with them. If I had a wife and a kid that I had to take care of, for them to just, they let nine of us go in one day. So that was scary for everybody. And then I went from there to a company that did a lot of restaurants. They did cheesecake factories, they did Burger Kings, they had all these really big accounts, with these chain type restaurants. So I started learning refrigeration, really liked refrigeration really got into refrigeration. It seemed to fit me better. Because I don’t like talking to people. So I just get to go and do my job. And somebody signs the paper and I leave and I go somewhere else.

Right plus T refrigeration is tends to be more year round work to.

Yeah, absolutely. Refrigeration is definitely more hours all year round. So even right now, the students that are have out in the field that are working in refrigeration, on average, right now it’s 70 degrees during the day and 45 degrees at night. They’re still running 5060 hours a week right now, while the air conditioning guys are dropping down to below 40. They’re dropping down below 40 hours a week right now. Big companies can keep guys busy with with PMS, installs, things like that. But for the most part, I don’t know where you’re Where are you at what state

I’m in, in Oregon, I’m in near Portland, Oregon.

Now, okay, so here in Arizona, it never really gets cold in the valley. Like at night, it’s a little bit chilly. But I still walk around and just a t shirt or a light flannel, you know, so it never really gets cold, especially during the day, we have so much sunlight. But refrigeration just it was just better. To me. It’s everywhere, restaurants, hospitals, schools, just in everything. And I don’t really push refrigeration. In my teaching, I cover a little bit of it. I explained to him that it’s literally the same as air conditioning that can go one way or the other, you know, coils or coils, motors or motors, TX vs or TX vs.

Right. Hey, guys quick announcement, if you have not stopped into our website, at skilled trade rescue.com, please do that on the home page here, you will see that we have the Join the movement email list. If you haven’t signed up, please consider doing that we have some amazing guests lined up for the podcast, I’m going to be getting the stories out of successful technicians and business owners in skilled trades. These are not just HVAC people there’s going to people be from across the skilled trade spectrum. And my hope is that I’m going to be able to draw out of these people the things that have worked in their careers amazingly well. And the things that if they had a chance to talk to their younger self, what they would tell them not to do. So I want to share all that stuff with you. And if you sign up, you’re going to be the first to know when we drop those new podcast episodes. Also coming soon we have the BST workshop, it’s a five day automated email workshop. However, you’re going to give content to us through that workshop, you’re going to get one on one feedback from our instructors, instructors, and we’re looking to better your career. I’ve been teaching the BST process for many, many years, about two decades one on one. And I’m going to be trying to do that to the masses through this workshop. It’s totally free. All you have to do sign up. And as soon as you do that, you’ll get alerts on your email. As soon as these new podcasts come in, as well as the BSD workshop. So be check it out. I will put a link to the website on the show notes for this episode today. So check it out.

I spent in total, working for other people 20 years, and then started teaching. My wife came to me one day and was like, hey, the kids don’t know who you are. I’m gonna take them and leave you unless you get a job where we get to hang out together sometimes. So that was geez, about 12 years into our marriage. And I got really, really lucky because the economy tanked and everybody lost their jobs. Right. So I ended up looking for another job and got a chance to teach at an adult programs school. So there’s an adult program school out here. My last week working for a refrigeration company I worked 107 hours in eight days and that was normal for me for about 10 years. Because we’re in the desert. We make things cold in the desert. It’s a good job, you know, that everybody else knows over time and working on call service that much becomes normal to you, you know, you get into a groove where you work 100 hours a week, and you’ll do it your whole life until you’re dead, or until your wife comes and says, Hey, we’re going to leave if you don’t spend more time at home. So I got lucky with that. And I worked for an adult ed program and did my side work myself for seven years. And during that time, I wrote my own curriculum for the program that I was covering. I got I got it to the publishers, I got the I Emmys for it. And then the company I was working for didn’t want to pay for it. So we went back to their 50 year old curriculum. And that made me unhappy. So a person that I had worked with for four or five years there, had left and started doing work at a public school. So out here, we have CTE programs, which are like shop class, but we’re our own schools. So our district is 3600 square miles, and we have 49 high schools that feed into our campuses. Wow. We were really

trying to what, what is CTE stand for J.

Career and Technical Education? Okay, so like, you look like you’re about my age, when we

hire young, very young.

When we were in high school, we had shop class we had about woodworking or or the sheet metal class or, you know, little things that guys took just to get out of a real class. So they didn’t have to learn anything, they could just goof off. Right? Well, here in Arizona, especially on the west side, we’ve taken that and turned it into a school. My campus that I’m at is nine acres. Wow, we, at my school, we teach I personally teach the hvac and refrigeration program. I teach the residential wiring program that turns into a four year apprenticeship when the students get done with that. They, they have their tournaments card, you know, wow. On the HVAC side, I teach them everything. I mean, we tear units completely apart, I’ll pull all the wires out of the unit. They have to make their own wires and rewire the unit. It’s got to work we go as far as literally taking the motors completely apart and putting them back together so that they fully understand every part of every component. And the little bits of things that can go wrong in there. At my campus, we’re doing H vac, residential wiring, Heavy Diesel, auto tech, auto collision, medical assisting, coding. We have a fully operational Veterinary Clinic. I’m sure I forgot one or two of the things but that’s just at my campus. We have four other campuses, like I said, our district encompasses 3800 square miles of our state. So so.

So Jay, who’s funding all this is this all funded through the school district or student at the state which

this is a public school. This is a public school. We also offer adult programs. Some of the other campuses have welding. So we have adult programs and not h fac has an adult program that we do at this campus. But if you know anything about how much the schools charge, you know, the one I was working out before I came to public school was 20 grand for a nine month program. And if you wanted to finish with an associate’s degree, it was 30 grand right here. Our adult program here I think is seven grand for 14 months. And, you know, the high school program they pay for their uniforms. So I think they pay $200 for uniforms and other things when they finish when the age fat kids finish here. They have their 608 Universal, their 609 there for 10 a, an OSHA 10 And right now I’m working with Arizona Department of Education slash my school district to try and implement the new flammable refrigerants, certification, so that we can have them with that safety certification before they leave the school as well. I think I lost the summary. Can you still hear me?

Yeah, no, I can hear you. Hang on a minute here. My, my webcam just decided to There we go. That was my end. I’m pretty sure. No, I got all that. That was very good. So let me get my head around this, Jay. So you’re part of the public school system. So you have you have students coming in. So In, let’s say a junior senior in high school, can they can they come in to your program while they’re in high school? sort of as a quasi shop class?

Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s, they get their elective credits. Okay. So what they’ll do is, so my each class is here from 730 to 1030 in the morning, then they go to their home, high school, whatever. And they do, whatever their core classes are that they have to complete. So we take juniors and seniors here, but all of our campuses, juniors and seniors, and then my afternoon classes from one to 330, for my electricians, so the electricians will go to their home high school, and then come here. I see. Okay, and then get an elective credit, I think. I think my age class gets three credits. And my electrical class gets two and a half credits, because there’s a half hour difference in the program times my age, but kids are here for three hours, my electrical kids here for two and a half.

So the kids that come in, I can call them kids, because I’m old. So the kids that come in from there, they’re currently enrolled in public high school there. Do they pay anything to attend the classes? Or is it all paid for just like the normal schooling is paid for?

So they pay for their uniforms? uniforms? Okay, you mentioned that I have to wear uniforms. The first thing we start with in this program is getting the students our students have to transport themselves, we don’t bus them. Okay, so they’re driving their own vehicles paying for their own gas paying for their own well, or their parents are. Yeah, right. We pay for the certifications that they get. So that’s amazing. That’s so cool. We teach professionalism, that the first thing we start with safety and professionalism, so they have to wear their school uniform. They wear what a service tech would wear, they have the, like the Dickey shirt, or the red cap shirt, and they were black Dickey pants, right? They wear their work boots, they have to be still toe or composite. And that’s for every program here. Every program here teaches professionalism. It’s part of their grade. I personally give them 180 points, because that’s how many days they are in school. And they’ll lose one of those points of professionalism, and it affects their grade. So if they curse, they can lose that point. If they curse. I’ve given them the option, so that they can throw each other under the bus or they can catch themselves in the beginning. So they get fired, they lose their job. If you curse, one of your classmates can say you’re fired. If the classmate says you’re fired before I say you’re fired, then they get to keep their point their classmates saved them. If they say I quit after they curse, because they catch themselves, if they do it before I say it, then they save that point. Okay, they show up without their uniform, any part of their uniform, they lose that point. If they goof around in class, and they’re unsafe, they lose that point. If they’re not cleaning up after themselves, they lose that point. We teach soft skills, we teach professionalism. We teach safety. And that’s basically the first six or eight weeks of school. And then we spent three days in the lab, two days in the classroom so that the students are getting 70 to 80% of their program is hands on. It’s in the labs, it’s doing the work. My H back students, we get to go on the roof of the school, on all of the buildings on the campus to do the pm for the campus. They work on live equipment, they test capacitors, they test motors, anything we find wrong, we report they buy the parts for us, we get to go change those parts. So they’re getting real on the job training. In the program. We get guest speakers that come in, we do job shadowing, they get to go out with contractors and spend a day with contractors going to real job sites and dealing with real customers. And it’s a good thing. It works out really well.

Jay, can you see the tear running down my cheek right now? This is great. Okay, so that’s the that’s the high school program. So basically, the school district, the school system, Arizona pays for your salary, the existence of the facility, all kind of stuff and the, the, the students, they have to get themselves there. I eat our own transportation, you have to buy their uniforms, which I think is totally legit. And then you mentioned you have an adult program, which is people who are not school age, high school age, but they’re working on a career change. Let’s say they might have a college degree and they’re like, you know, I’ve been hearing that skilled trades are pretty good, you know, pretty good opportunity. So they can also come into your program. And you said Did that that cost is around 7000. You said

it’s like $7,000 for a 14 month program, they come here from 645 to 1010 o’clock, something like that. I don’t teach the adult program, but I know they come

in, that’s in the evening after work. So they can do, yeah, yay. So

they do four hours a day, four days a week, okay, 14 months,

wow. 1414 weeks or 14 months,

14 months, 14 months, 18 months, they gotta be job ready, they gotta be skilled, when they leave here, we’ve got multiple people or students that come in, they have to have a higher than than average grade point average. And they have to have better than average attendance, we don’t even let them come in. My programs have 50 plus waiting list. Students begging to get in here. Now a lot of that has to do with the program the way that it supports us. Right. My first when I first came here, they had nine students in the each back program. Now there’s 50 on a waiting list, we got 24 in the classroom, we’ve already got 50 signed up for next year. And we’re three months into the school year. You know,

why? Why is that, Jay? Is that because the the words getting out now that you know, Trey, I mean, let me ask you this post COVID. Have you noticed that there’s a a change in the interest in skilled trades or what, you know, what’s caused the the growth and interest in skilled trades from what you can tell

it’s harder to get a job at Burger King. Because pay has gone up so high, that people are quitting regular jobs, careers to go work at Burger King, or go work at McDonald’s or, you know, go work at grocery stores, you know, out here, they’re paying 1516 $17 an hour to flip burgers. Yeah, if I was making $12 an hour, you know, in a desk job, I’m going to work at McDonald’s, you know, there’s less responsibility, you basically get to set your schedule, it’s the same place every day, they pay well. I think that’s got a lot to do with it here at the school. I think the biggest thing is the support, you know, the adult programs that are at adult programs, schools, they cycle through instructors continuously. You got people that are there as instructors that are there because they can’t work in the field anymore. They’re miserable. You know, they’re not happy with that job, but it’s what they’re doing now. You got somebody quits, they don’t have time to vet somebody else in they got 20 3040 students in the classroom that needs somebody teaching them now they’re paying $30,000. You know, here in the school that I’m teaching West Mac is the Western medical education center out here in Arizona. So West Mac really supports us, you know, I brought a better curriculum, in my opinion, right, a better curriculum with me, I brought modern refrigeration with me, I turned everything into online, they do everything online now. So in the classroom, I’m free to teach. Without, you know, them having to flip through pages and highlight stuff, right? They provide us with the financial support that we need to make things better. You know, the the boards that you see behind me, we’ve got 11 of those boards, each one of them represents a different piece of HVAC equipment, the students have to be able to wire those up from memory, the music and leave my program and look at a wiring schematic on any piece of equipment and know what it means and know how to wire it up. You know, we we give them many different colors of wire. So they understand that it doesn’t matter what the color is, you need to know that this part goes to this part that goes to this part. And that’s how that it works. So he’s all the way up.

Yeah, so let’s advance the story just a little bit. So are you guys keeping track of your graduates from both programs, the adult program as well as the high school program that you teach? Are you keeping track of the placements like, like, out of all this? Yeah. Well, all the students that you’re training in both programs, what’s the percentage of of people that are actually getting placed in the industry, both electrical and HVAC after they complete your program?

Um, I wouldn’t say 80% around 80% for the high school students. You have to keep in mind though, that they’re high school students. And the juniors aren’t going into the field. There, they’ve got another year of schooling to do. So what I’ll get is I’ll get students that are in my age, that class will come back next year and take my electrical program, right, because both of my programs are a one year program, or they’ll be in my electrical program, and then take my H vet class the following year. Okay, so, but the adult program, I think the last class that graduated out of 18 or 19, students, only one student didn’t get a job in the field, because they chose not to. Right. So for the adult program, it’s almost 100% all the time. And the adult program is brand new. So the person I spoke about earlier that worked at another company that I worked at, came here and his teaching that adult program, and basically tricked me into coming here. You know, he would say, Hey, this is a good place, the people here like each other, it’s, you should come see it one day. And he texted me one day, he’s like, do you know anybody that wants to teach each HVAC and electrical? I became complacent in my teaching job. And I was like, No, why would anybody want to do that? Yeah, planting little seeds. Right. So what he finally gets me to come out here and tour the facility. And it’s amazing. It’s an amazing facility. You know, I’ll take you around in a couple of minutes. And yeah, it’s amazing here.

So it sounds to me like your adult program, which I think is probably a better representation to the demand is is probably better than 80%. It’s probably in the 90% range.

I mean, if it’s almost 100%, it’s almost, okay.

So there’s no problem if these people want to get a job. Regardless, if they’re part of your high school program, when they graduate high school as a senior if they decide, you know, hey, college isn’t for me, and they’ve been through your program. I think it’s reasonable to say that correct me if I’m wrong here that those kids too, would be in the 90% range, if they wanted to work in skilled trades, right?

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So we have a lot of companies that that hire just our students like us and say, Hey, when are the next students available? You know, the high schools, once they’re trainable, they don’t have any bad habits yet. You know, they don’t have any other work experience. They learned from ground zero through these companies, and the adult program in in Arizona, right now, while it’s cold outside, we’re still around 1000 technicians short of what Arizona needs to do the air conditioning to do the refrigeration work. We’re short. And there’s constant interest in our program for hiring, they’re looking for anybody. I’ve had students hired that were working at McDonald’s just because they were in West Mac. You know, they go through the kids, we’re in a West Mac hat, H fat guys getting a burger and he says, Hey, what’s going on? You know, and when he’s

working for McDonald’s, they work working to fix their equipment, right?

No, I mean, flipping burgers while they’re in school. Oh, Okay, gotcha. And when the H vac technician comes in to fix the equipment, and starts talking to this kid flipping burgers and the kids like, I’m in West Mac, I’m doing this, I’m learning what you’re doing. And then they get a job offer when you graduate, come work for us. Right? Over and over and over again. I’m sure that’s through all of our programs, all of our trade programs, we do general construction, here also. So we’ve got a two year program in general construction, where they learn framing and plumbing, a little bit of electrical, a little bit of everything in general construction.

So what what’s the Do you ever get any feedback? Like? What’s the career track for these kids? So let’s say you get a let’s say, you get a high school kid that gets out of high school. He’s been through your program, and he’s working in HVAC, you know, he gets a job. And this may be a scenario similar to the one you just explained. What What’s the career track? I mean, like what are the shops, starting them out at, you know, hourly wage, and, you know, what’s the what’s the entry point wage versus, you know, they turn out as a journeyman. I don’t know if you get that kind of feedback, but you have any insight on that?

I do. Because my students come back and talk to me all the time. They come in and talk to the class. Their guest speakers in the class, did that great, Open House events and talk to prospective students, you know, they really come back to support us. I had a student I’m here Wednesday, that went to work for a company, and has only been there for six months. And they started them at $20 an hour, and in two months, raised them up to $22 an hour, he’s been there six months, he’s making $24 an hour. These other companies, we have, a lot of them are starting them around $18 an hour, or I don’t know, Where were your companies, what they’re doing out here are companies like to start their guys in install things. They set them up for a track, some of these companies are set up where there are career minded, you know, they want to start this guy, and they want them to work there for 20 years. So they put them on that path. You know, one of the companies that supports us and hires a lot of our students actually takes our students and pays for them to go to another program for two weeks, just to do install, they go learn only install. So and I’m working with that company right now to build an install lab here. So they don’t have to do that anymore. With my students. My students will be turnkey, there’ll be ready to jump in a truck with another technician, maybe spend 30 days on the road, learning how to do the paperwork and stuff. And then they’re out in the field doing what they’re doing. You know, and they’re going both into refrigeration and air conditioning, you know. So these companies are coming to us asking for our students.

What’s the what’s the top wage in Arizona now? For a journeyman HVAC, Takkar? Electrician, what kind of feedback are you getting on top wages,

I’m looking at 35 to $40 an hour. For general stuff. If you’re doing specialty stuff like like, controls or controls, cryogenic systems, that’s good that you said that. We had an open house last night. And I had previous students show up with family members that they want to get into the same programs. And one of my students came in, and he’s making $27 an hour, he’s 22 years old, he’s making $27 an hour doing controls. He’s doing controls at a facility out here, they’re building a new microchip or processor plan out here from Taiwan. And the company he’s working for was subcontract. And he’s over there, his first job $27 an hour. And he said, he sits most of the time and just watch his downloaded movies, because he’s got to sit and download all of this software before he can put it on this equipment. So he just sits and watch that little line get longer and longer and longer until it’s ready to boot. So

yeah, that’s no, I I’ve been talking about this a lot, Jay. Because my I have some theories about what’s what’s occurred in the last, you know, generation in skilled trades, because, you know, it used to be that there was this natural push by parents and counselors and everybody. If you want to be successful in America, you got to get college education. That’s the only option. Right? And, yeah, and what ends up happening is, you end up with people that get out of a college education in debt. And they, you know, some of them, many of them actually end up working in skilled trades eventually, or working at it in other areas that don’t have any alignment with their, their college education. I mean, that’s just it. It’s just happening. And one of the very few good things that came out of COVID is I think parents finally woke up a little bit and saw over the shoulder of their kids what’s been happening in some of the schools, and they’re like, Hmm, maybe we don’t like this so much. So there’s been kind of an awakening towards, towards skilled trades. And so, yeah,

what we did during COVID, when we had to go virtual, which is very difficult for a program that is 70 or 80%, hands on, I personally had all of my students cut wood and build boards, that they could do all of their wiring and stuff on we put all of the components the school supported that they paid for, you know, it was $250, a student out of the school’s budget to get the stuff together that they could take home and still do these labs, virtually. So I could I could log on, just like a regular class every day and teach and then they would have to do the labs that I presented to them. It does for everybody, but it still kept the students engaged. They were still when they did get to come back to school. They were still in line. You know, they didn’t miss anything. It’s it’s hard to do. But was Mac provided everything that we needed for that they fully supported everything you know, and all.

That’s it. Was your is your program modeled? You is your program unique just for Arizona or is there? Is there? Is that becoming more popular now where there’s a kind of a partnership between the public schools and skilled trades? Or is your program in Arizona kind of unique for the country?

No, it’s everywhere. It’s everywhere we have. Have you heard of SkillsUSA? No,

I have not. Okay.

So you know who Mike Rowe is? Yeah, yeah. Okay. So he’s one of the big proponents of skilled trades. Yep, you know, and he also pushes SkillsUSA. So SkillsUSA, is a global competition. And it goes everything from professionalism to the actual skilled trades. So, this last year, my ECheck, students took first, second and third place in state. And my electricians took first and second place in state. And then we go to Nationals nationals this last year was held in Where did I go? Atlanta, I was in Atlanta. So I took my top students first place students to Atlanta, and they competed against the other 50 states. Wow. And then, and then the winners of those. I’m not sure how the global portion works, but I know they end up in Russia, you know, or China, or, you know, so the whole globe is part of the SkillsUSA. It’s skills, it’s called Skills world they go from it just brings everybody together, it brings all skills together, it’s all sponsored. And all of these contractors put their money and their their stuff into the skilled trades competitions, they support the schools that are doing this. And don’t get me wrong, the high school still have their their shop classes that are doing the CTE stuff was Mac actually supports a lot of those programs in other schools, we pay into those other schools to make sure that that there are a satellite of West Mac. On the east side, there’s a east valley Institute of Technology. Compared to Westpac. They’re very small, but they’re the same thing. They’re doing the same thing here. And I know that it’s in other states, because I go to the competitions, and my each vaccine is take first, second and third place. All four years that I’ve been teaching here. And then, as far as the college thing that you’re talking about, I push against college, not against college, but I push against financing college, I try to teach my students to do what I did. So I dropped out of school. I didn’t get my GED until I was 40. And then when I was 40, and got my GED, I was like, hey, my brain kind of works. Some. So I went and got an engineering degree. I’ve got no student debt, you make your money, you pay cash, you know, you make your money, you get your work, and somebody else will pay for school for you. You know, if you go like company, they’ll pay for school for you. So that’s, that’s what I did. I got I got with a good company that was willing to pay for me to do better stuff. And I got an engineering degree. I got an Associates in mechanical maintenance engineering, which is exactly what my field was. Yeah. So it was really, really easy. I did it online while I was working 17 hours a day.

Yeah, you know, what’s really interesting, Jay is, I’ve been spending, I’m writing a book, actually a series of ebooks on you know, how to how to succeed in the skilled trades industry. And part of my research has been to look at a reporting, particularly of wages with within skilled trades. And what’s interesting is most of the most of the school counselors, most of the well, a lot of the media, which is why I digress. I don’t want to go off on the media too far. But they most of the reporting that’s done on the income potential for skilled trades, I don’t care what it is plumber, HVAC, electrician, you name it is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, okay. And their data is just flat out wrong. I mean, it’s not even close. And they’re finally now starting to ratchet it up, but I did I did some really The in depth research for my books on how they how they gather their data. And it’s it’s archaic that they’re not actually talking to it’s an echo chamber basically. So what they’re saying is, you know, a journeyman level HVAC tech, you know, they’re showing and I’m just pulling this number from the air because I was just looking at this the other day, they’re showing the most you’re gonna make in as a journeyman technician for HVAC is about $35,000 a year. Yeah. Which is, which is total BS, right? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I mean, if you could, if you could find a contractor in the United States that can employ a journeyman for $35,000 a year, you probably wouldn’t that wouldn’t want that contractor working on your building.

Right? No, in reality, you know, I talk to my students about that all the time, because they’ll go online, and they’ll say, this says, we’re only going to make this much money, you know, and I have to tell him, Look, I’ve made a million dollars, more than once. I’m not good at saving money, but I have a lot of really cool tools. And for other technicians to come into the school and talk to my students, it changes their opinion of things that changes their outlook on things because like I said, just had a student come in, he’s making $24 $24 An hour after working for six months right out of school. No other job experience. He got there. They trained him, they put him in a truck six months later, he’s making $24 an hour. And you know, he’s working 6070 hours a week, right? They can

get away with for a while till you get married.

Yeah, yeah. One of the other things I do is all of my students, the last day of school, I give them my Snapchat, my Snapchat is all of my other students that are already out in the field and working. So I create this bond, from class to class to class of brand new technicians, and technicians that have been out there for a couple of years. And it’s just really fun to watch the new technicians out there, these kids just getting out there and having trouble with this or having trouble with that and going to the Snapchat, the social media and saying, Hey, guys, I need some help. This red thing is blue. And I don’t know how to make it red again, you know, and you’ve got all of these other technicians that are out there watching the Snapchat because now it’s everything’s about social media. Right? You know, one of our biggest I don’t want to call them a sponsor, but a supporter is Mike Mayberry, he’s

on my show. Yeah,

he does videos for us all the time, he comes in and takes pictures and does videos and puts us on Instagram puts us on Tik Tok. You know, everything is social media now. So that’s how I keep my students connected to each other. They’ve got a strong line of support out there. They’ve got technicians that are, you know, working on things that they haven’t seen yet. It’s just it’s a good thing. It keeps them just bonded with with each other. And with West Mac and with me, and you know, I’ll sit and watch the snapshot go by my wife was sitting next to me, she loves watching the little heads pop up out of the bottom of the screen when they’re typing, you know, and it’s just fun. Sometimes they get a little inappropriate. But yeah, of course, that’s one of the other things I got, every every year I’ve taught I’ve had female students also in both electrical and each fac, which I think is amazing to see these these young women going into an industry that’s been predominantly males, you know, and they go and they fight against the male prejudiced, you know, and, you know, I had an employer that would call me every half an hour and asked me how the girl was doing, you know, wouldn’t even say her name, just how’s the girl doing? How’s it? You know, and eventually, I just got upset. And I think her name is, she’s doing better than I did when I started. You know, she’s got the right training. If you have issues, you should come watch her work, because she’s working as hard as anybody else, and doing a better job at it. You know, and one of the girls in my class right now, we study for the EPA. So we cut it up into four pieces we study for core, then we study for type one, then we study for type two, then we study for type three. So we spent two weeks studying for core. And we took this test, and she passed all four of them her first try, you know, that’s the first time I’ve seen that in teaching in 12 years. So these, these women come in and they’re smart. And they work just as hard as the men do, and they’re willing to get dirty. And also, that’s the thing that I see swing after COVID is is, you know, I’m getting more females, right and classroom. You know

what’s interesting Jay, I recently finished up I was I had a temporary assignment, working for a major semiconductor company. And I had an aha moment about females coming into skilled trades that I was just, you know, it registered with me. And I hadn’t thought about it too much. I was out on a fab floor. And they were doing a bunch of they’re putting in new tools, new new electronics tools. And they were running some new circuits. They were running some big, you know, high amp, you know, whatnot to these wire wires they were pulling were like this, right? We’re pretty big. So I’m looking, I see two women that are actually doing all the wiring, which wasn’t, you know, I was sort of used to that. And then I saw these women setting up to pull this wire through the conduit, and I’m going, Wow, and this this gal was maybe, I don’t know, 120 pounds soaking wet, I’m going, this is going to be really interesting. Are they going to pull some guys in that? You know, help with that? And because there’s just physical strength things right. And I was I was in there work in anyway. And I had a chance to witness this this scalpels this, you know, they had the nylon tape already ran through the conduit, when gal was on one end, and one was on the pull side of it. And she had the it looked like a Milwaukee electrical drill that had this winch setup on it. So she just set it all up, push the button and pull that wire right through that conduit. And I’m like, okay, so because of our technology advances, women now have opportunities in the few things that you know, it was harder for them to do just because of physical strength. Now we have tools that make it possible for women to do stuff that they normally couldn’t do before, you know, and I’m like, wow, this is so cool. And then the other thing we have that I noticed was I was We have facilities, they had a Facilities Management Department, where they’re writing all the PLC software and all that kind of stuff. And I’d say half of them were women in there doing that. Yeah. And they were doing a, you know, a, they were just as good as the men work if not better in a few cases. Yes. Yep. It’s fantastic. So yeah, love seeing that. Yeah. So what’s what’s next for you, Jay? I mean, so you’ve been teaching how long now?

I’m, like, 10 years now. But I still do my own thing on the side. I still I still, I still love working on air conditioners, I still love working on refrigeration systems, you know, and it’s better because the money goes into my pocket. Now. I don’t have any overhead. I work out of my garage, you know? And I just do I do my work for cash in Yeah, don’t don’t do big install jobs anymore, or anything like that. I just like to keep myself up to date as best I can. I still just love doing the work. And if I’m not running calls, I’m building something at the house or wiring something at the house or, you know, yeah.

So one of the things that I’ve been looking closely at is work life balance. And you alluded to it a couple of times, about how your life working as a service technician can get out of balance, right? Where you have conflicts with your significant other. Have you thought about like, is there any tricks to the trade about you know, what, let’s say you get a you get a newly married, you know, newly minted technician who’s out there working and the kids are starting to show up and stuff. Is there any tricks of the trade about maintaining life balance, being as busy as technicians can get? What what do you have any ideas on that?

So here’s a thing that’s happening here. I don’t know if it’s happening everywhere, and it might just be due to the heat. In the summer here. Our average attic temperatures in the middle of summer are 140 150 degrees. I’ve been on rooftops that were 170 degrees. I’ve literally had the glue and my boots melt and lost souls on rooftops out here. But now, I feel like everybody’s getting weak. Because these companies are only working these guys eight hours. You know, they’re like an am shift and a pm shift. It’s so strange to me, you know and on call, instead of just being the guy on call and working it out. strip 50 hours a week while you’re on call, they’ve got a guy on call in each part of the state. You know, it’s not just one guy I used to have to drive on call, I would drive 100 miles in one direction to get to a call rail. And now, they put guys, they put technicians all over the valley. They’re not just centralized around the shop anymore. And somebody might be on call in for us. So I work in Phoenix, but I live in Mesa. So I drive 80 miles a day to teach. But they’ll have technicians that are just 40 miles apart from each other all over the state.

So what you’re seeing, what you’re seeing is the employers are being a little bit more aware of burnout.

Yeah, exactly. They weren’t like that. When I started when I started. You were dead, you know, yeah. And if you had to call in for a day, they were upset with you, because I had to move all of those calls to the other technicians. And then the other technicians were angry with you, because they had extra calls to run. And now I’m seeing a lot of them are really more lenient on that kind of thing, especially with the feedback that I get from my students, because my students will say, Oh, I missed three days this week, I just wasn’t feeling it. I called the boss and was like, I don’t want to run calls today. And the boss was like, Okay, well just give your calls to somebody else. Like, I would have just slapped you. If you walked up and said, You didn’t want to run calls today. That’s not the way this industry works. But apparently now, it’s getting that way where everybody has feelings, and everybody cares about everybody else’s feelings. It’s not really all about the money anymore. That makes a huge difference, especially with these younger guys that, you know, they spent their life up until the day they graduated playing video games in somebody’s house, you know, or hanging.

My I have a friend that runs a big company HVAC company in the Northwest here and him and I lament. We opine about, you know, the difference in attitude between the younger generation now that’s working as technicians like, and the one we talked about the other day was, can you believe it usually starts out like that, can you believe that? There’s so and so he wanted their birthday week off. Yeah. And we were like, gosh, you know, it’s when I was a service technician, we got to maybe leave an hour early on Friday. That was it.

I had to quit a job. Because I had told them weeks in advance, and reminded them weeks in advance that I wanted my my daughter’s birthday off, she was turning two or three. And on that day, they were like, Hey, we need you to run one more call. It’s three hours away from where you are now. You’ll probably be up there all night. And it’s three hours back. And it’s no, we had this conversation. You know, we’ve been talking about the things that my wife has said to me, right, and I have to be home and they said, Well, if you’re not going to run this call, just leave the van where it is and get a ride. So I called him off to pick it up, you know, but like I said, it’s it’s, it’s the desert, finding a job in air conditioning or refrigeration here is super easy, right? You know, and as long as you show potential, you get to keep your job, you know, unless you just get the wrong kind of employer that’s not an employer, he’s just, you know, a driver just wants to be going until you’re done. You know, I, I literally cut my pinky off. Another technician dropped a coil on my hand while I was holding a piece of sheet metal out of the way and just cut through all of the tendons and everything in my pinky. And I called the boss and I was like, hey, my pinkies gonna fall off. And he says, Well, can you wrap it up and finish the job and then go to consentrate when you’re done, and that’s what I did. I wrapped up my hand I finished the job and then I went to urgent care afterwards. And that’s how it was you know when you and I were kids doing H vac you yourself but the jobs still had to get finished

units right? This rubble of dirt on it, get to

rub some dirt in it makes some mud it’ll quit bleeding.

So hey, we’ve been at it for about an hour just about an hour. Actually. i Before we wrap up though, I want to I want to make sure we cover a couple things. I want to get a little tour but I have a feeling hopefully, I’m going to do that last. So those of you who are watching this on YouTube, you’ll be able to see some things about Jay’s world here and the educational part of this business. But I want to also before Jake gets up and moves around a little bit, I want to I want to ask you, Jay, how can HVAC or any other skilled trade business owner, help you in your endeavors to track new skilled people into the trades? I mean, is there any, any things you need that the contractor community can, can help you with?

Yes, we need their engagement. They know where to find their CTE programs, they’re in every state, they need to find the CTE programs, and they need to be part of it. They need to be engaged with us. We have advisory committees, where we bring in contractors from everywhere else, you know, and bring them into our program. And these contractors, we have advisor chairs, they’re supposed to run these meetings for us. They’re supposed to provide job shadowing opportunities. They come and they do mock interviews with us, our students know how to interview and what these guys are looking for, when they get out into the field. And, you know, we need, we need material support, we need tool support. We’re a public school, we’re paid by the taxpayers. It’s the same as any other public school. The students are in public schools working out of old books, old technology, because we can’t afford new stuff was Mex a little bit different. It’s been set up differently. So we do pretty good. Where we struggle is consumables. You know, I teach breezing copper is expensive. I’ve got 20 students that have to brace 50 times before they get out of my program. That’s a lot of copper. That’s a lot of oxygen. That’s a lot of acetylene, the torches burn out because they’re used so much. You know, our tools were out super fast. I’ve got 24 students using, you know, the same 10 screwdrivers, yeah, three days a week. So just getting industry partners to come in and talk to the students. Tell them what it’s like out there, you know, get them, get them hyped up about it. Like, I become a parent figure. They stop listening to me at some point. And then I can bring in Mike Mayberry can come in and talk about a unit that he set and say 50 things that I’ve said exactly the same. Yeah. And then he and the students, like, why didn’t you teach us any of that? That’s one. Go back to your book and look at chapter three. Right? The PowerPoints that we covered, see, you can do that again.

Yeah. Well, that’s a tale was all the time, right? Tails all this time. You know, when dad tells you something, or somebody you have, you know, you have a history with, and then you bring in somebody who you don’t, but they always listen to the one they don’t have a history with. That’s just that’s, that’s just kind of how, how it. Okay, so, Jay, if the if the contractors out there, because we do have quite a few to listen to the podcast, if they have questions. They say, Hey, Jay, how can I help? Can I go ahead and put your, your email address? And is there a phone number I can put on the on the social media and our posts? So they can reach out to you? Do you have time to talk to contractors who are willing to help out? Or is there a website they can go to?

Yeah, they can they can go to the west Mac website. We’re at the Northeast Campus is is where our H vac program is located. We do the electrical program at Northeast Campus and southwest campus.

West Max URL

if you just put in West hyphen MEC, okay, it’ll come up. Okay. It’s everywhere. Um, I did not prepare to give you contact information. Oh, no,

that’s okay. Yeah, you can you can email it to me. And what I’ll do is I’ll make sure it goes into the show notes. Okay. And they can they can look at it. It’ll be up on all the platforms. So

one of my business cards if perfect phone number and email everything you want me to grab one of those?

Yeah, that’d be great. That’d be great. I can, I can edit. I can edit it out. Just Just send me the information. I’ll put it in there because it’ll be in the show notes. So hey, before you go, let’s you wanted to give me a little bit of a tour. Yeah, so those of you who are listening, that’s not going to be much help but we will be posting the full video and audio on our YouTube channel. So have a look at it. So Jay. So what are we looking at here? What is this?

So I guarantee it’s gonna blow your mind? That’d be absolutely flabbergast I sit by what we do here. So I’m gonna pick up my computer. Yeah, walk you around with me. So these boards here are Wiring Boards. These are the boards that the students have to wire. So in starting their program, we teach them just how to use a tape measure, they have to make all of the wires themselves. To wire up these boards, they have to be able to wire all of these boards from memory, you can see that we have the wiring diagrams up top here, at the end of the school year, their final is they draw three of these boards out of a hat and have to draw the wiring diagram and wire up these boards from memory. So that’s the the control boards that’s just in the classroom. So this is our classroom, you can see that we’ve got stuff all over the place, so that they’re constantly engaged, they’re constantly using their hands. Here’s the wiring spools that they use. And then I’ll run you down real quick to the H vac lab, I’ll walk you through the electrical lab on the way. Okay, let’s just go through the labs, you’ll see how big the labs are. This is our hallway. Office right here. There we go. And then, so we enter this part of the, the building. And these are literally hangers, we’ve changed them into a school program. So this is the electrical lab, at the end of the year, they have to be able to wire up this house. Cool. So that’s their final and this program is wiring up this house to code to have all of the different types of switches, lighting fans, smoke detectors, these are the trading boards that we put them on. So they do 16 different labs on these training boards. They’re live, they use real electricity. The contractor come in and say he wants them to know some three phase stuff. So we’ve just finished building this part of the lab. We haven’t written the curriculum for it yet. So we’re constantly trying to improve and get better. So we’ve got very little speed things here, we’ve got motor starters reversers, they’re gonna have to be able to wire up all of these components. And what’s good about being able to teach both programs is I can run them into each other. So my electricians will do this. And my H vac students will come over and do this.

Hey, Jay. Jay, I’m not sure if you can hear me do you cover lockout? tagout?

Absolutely. Okay. We do lockout tagout. We do all of the safety stuff, the students get their OSHA 10 their construction ocean 10, not the general OSHA 1010 that we do here. amongst their other certifications. I’ll show you real quick here. This is general construction. Right now. They’re building platforms, because they’re going to build bathrooms. So they’re going to build fully operational bathrooms that will have all the electrical, all the plumbing, although everything that you would have in the HR club. And you can see the labs are pretty big. There’s plenty of room in here. Now the eight track lab I’m super excited about because we were just gonna have to unlock that door. We spent most of the end of last year and all of the summer and utilized the adult program students every night for months to rebuild this lab and redesign it, we’ve put stations in so that every student will actually work at their own station and be responsible for their ocean. It’s still a little bit under construction. They’re not complete, but we’ve got the station set up now. So with these stations, they have to do all the piping, they have to do all the electrical, they have to do all of the refrigeration recovery evacuation leak checks, you can see that we’re still working on this stuff. Our lab in general is pretty good size. We’ve got all of our equipment that set up over here. Train actually came in and designed this portion of the lab for us. So they gave us all of the equipment, all of this stuff while most of the time runs. Like I said, we build all of the training equipment ourself. We took this regular piece of equipment here, moved all of the components on the top, we’ve got switches to flip that up, put problems into the system, they rebuild everything themselves. We set up the tool crib like trucks so They each have their own truck that they have to work out of, with all of their basic hand tools, everything that they do in here. So each truck has what you would have on a truck. So the students get used to that. That’s a great news industry coming in and helping us out. They come and bring their trucks, they let the students go through their trucks and look at the stuff on stock and see how the trucks are organized. See the kind of tools that they have in the trucks. We have built this board here, which is just so they know how to wire up motors and starters. And start caps that are uncaps. And we do have some trainers in here that were purchased. But you can see we don’t use them much. We would rather use the stuff that that we’re building ourselves in here. Yeah, we do a little bit of refrigeration stuff. Not much. We do a little bit. So we got some regions that we mess with. We got a water cooled condenser system over here, I like to run for them so that they understand. In Arizona, we use a lot of our water source heat pumps, right. So we had a company donate some water source heat pumps to us, they’re gonna donate the cooling towers and the pumps and set them up for us. We’ve got a company that is donating mini splits to us so that we can set up mini splits in here. We’re teaching mini splits, this is all donated equipment that we get from the contractors.

That’s fantastic che

Oh, I’ll take you outside real quick. So you can see where we’re going to set up the install lab. Sorry, equipment. And here we have the regular package equipment. And then off to the side there you can see we have split systems, we have gas packs our lab setup so that we can run exhaust out. So we’re not poisoning everybody while they’re working on the gas packs here. And we’ve got a company that works with us very closely donates a lot of equipment donates a lot of their time, and hires a lot of our students. So we’ll be out here working on building an install lab, here at the back of our lab. So we’ll be able to hang stuff from the rafters run duct work. Put dampers in things. We teach them the duct work, we teach them the fiberboard duct work, teach them bracing, we’ve got a person. I know a guy that knows a guy that works with the company that makes the aluminum line sets that they don’t sell in Arizona except to one company that does probably 80% of the new construction installs in our state. So the only way to get aluminum line set for us is to know a guy, he knows a guy that gives them the line sets and he takes them and leaves them somewhere so I can pick them up on the way home and bring them back here to teach how to brace aluminum line sets to the copper stubs on the systems so that they can do all of that work.

Are you doing any sheetmetal like learning how to use seamers and brakes and things like that making sheetmetal duck work?

No, we’re not. And a lot of the companies out here have sheetmetal shops in them. Right? They train and hire sheetmetal guys to do the duct work in house. Right. So with the install lab, one of the things that they want is for us to be able to make the plenums. Yeah. Looking at some use breaks, and some other use tools, because if we can afford anything, it’s something used. processes a little bit difficult, though, because a lot of people that sell stuff aren’t a company that sells things and because we’re a public entity, stuff has to be set up differently.

Are you doing any training on on chillers?

Well, it’s in the curriculum. We don’t have any chillers here to do any hands on training on. So the curriculum I brought here is modern refrigeration. Okay, using the most updated curriculum. We’re in 22 or 23, the 20/22 or 23rd edition, modern refrigeration. And while most of that is done online, I do have a class set of the textbooks. So it’s in modern refrigeration. We get to sometimes if the right person is is answering the phone. When I call one of the big colleges out here, ASU, one of their sites is set up where it’s a, it’s all chillers, all of their buildings are on a chiller. So they have tunnels under the whole campus, like five miles of tunnels, right. So if I talk to the right person at the right time, I get a field trip. And I get to take the students to see these huge chiller systems and walk through all of the service tunnels under the ground. And it’s really neat for them, and they get to to tour the cooling towers. And that’s why we need industry support for and get them out to these jobs. And these job sites. You know, it’s amazing for them, it really needs that that little teeny tiny flame that I’m trying to fan. You know, industry supports. It’s like gasoline, it’s just Well,

yeah, you’re right. It is difficult. Yeah, I, I came from both sides, the contracting side. And then I also came from manufacturing, I had my own manufacturing company process, chiller manufacturing coming for a while. And anyway, it, it is difficult to get manufacturers attention to do stuff, but I think they’re finally starting to wake up. Because, you know, they they know that the success of their brand has to do with having people trained to be able to do the service work on set equipment. Because if you don’t, it’s not going to run, which ultimately impacts the brand. Right? So it’s a it’s a circle. One of the things I would suggest is, you know, seeing if you could get some permissions to you know, if you can’t do a field trip, at least maybe do a recording, you know, go out and do do some short videos on that. And yeah, so that might be something good.

We play all the time. Yeah. All the time. Yeah.

So that is it. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I very much look forward to continuing to connect with you. Please don’t hesitate to send me messages on LinkedIn. I’m on there all the time. Or you can reach out to me on my email. I’m at M King at process tiller. academy.com And until next week, when I give you the next installment I wish you a great week, and I will connect up with you again soon. Take care.

Episode(s) That Support This Topic.

Skilled Trades Interviews | with Jim O’Mally | An Insiders Perspectives on Skilled Trades

Today I get to sit down with Jim O’Mally, who has a unique perspective on the subject of Skilled Trades, particularly within the public school system.

Jim has used his experience and grit to teach skilled trades to our youth in public and charter schools, the state prison system, and everything in between.

This long-form interview with Jim covers several skilled trades’ topics and perspectives that you will rarely in the media.

You can access this podcast episode in audio-only or video using either of the links below:

ProcessAcademy.com – https://bit.ly/3h7s1DU

Link to Jim O’Mally’s BLOG: