Vance-Granville Community College’s partner in apprenticeship programs, Youngsville-based Frigi-Temp, has donated a large rooftop air conditioning unit to benefit students enrolled in the college’s Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Technology curriculum program.
“This industrial size unit will provide our students with hands-on skills training that will prepare them at a new level as they work to become HVAC technicians,” said Michael Whittemore, VGCC’s program head for the applied technology program.
A commercial HVAC and refrigeration service provider and licensed mechanical contractor serving central North Carolina since 2001, Frigi-Temp (www.frigitemp.com) joined forces with VGCC a year ago on the VGCC “Vanguard Apprenticeship Collaborative,” designed to cultivate highly skilled workers for large and small companies in a number of industries.
Cory Thornton, chief operating officer of Frigi-Temp, has demonstrated his company’s interest in Vance-Granville’s curriculum program as well as the apprenticeships for the benefits he sees it provides his business.
The system is a three-phase 12.5-ton Lennox commercial gas package unit with two stages for heating and two stages for cooling. When installed, the equipment would be valued at more than $20,000. The equipment includes an economizer, enthalpy control and a biometric relief damper, Thornton said.
“We wanted this unit to be a very good representation of what one can expect when they walk on a commercial rooftop,” said Thornton.
“Vance-Granville is our local vocational resource,” he added, noting that he has five team members who have attended VGCC in their educational pursuits. “Frigi-Temp, as a member of the Advisory Committee for the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration program and as the college’s only commercial apprenticeship partner, would not dream of donating the equipment to any other program.
“This donation will hopefully be the first of many as Frigi-Temp strives to do our part in updating the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) labs at VGCC,” said Thornton.
The equipment, which is the only commercial piece of equipment in VGCC’s lab, will give students an opportunity to experience three-phase compressors and motors, multiple stages of heating and cooling, and belt-driven blower assemblies, Thornton added. “They will have a chance to learn about the difference in maintaining a micro-channel coil and cycling condenser fan motors, among other exciting features,” he said.
Thornton said his company desires to make sure all students, especially their apprentices, have an opportunity to have a diverse list of equipment in the lab. “The more comfortable all the students can become with various types of equipment, how it functions, and how it is maintained the better position they will be in to start their careers with confidence,” Thornton said.
Over the next few years, there is estimated to be a shortage of more than 100,000 HVAC skilled labor workers, he said. “The August jobs report indicated a 3.9% unemployment rate across occupations,” he noted. “The drilldown on that report indicated a 2.5% unemployment rate for skilled labor positions. The unemployment rate for skilled commercial HVAC/R (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) technicians is something less than 2.5%. Every company out there is going to be competing for the same workers.
“Frigi-Temp also wants to be sure we are making investments in the generation of technicians which will be stepping up to fill the void. Frigi-Temp is making these investments now because we want to be sure that we always have a stream of new talent joining our team ensuring our customers’ needs are always met.”
It’s a matter of economics, the Frigi-Temp leader said: “The demand for HVAC/R equipment is increasing at the same time that the supply of those capable of meeting the demand is decreasing. Basic economics dictate that the price for HVAC/R services must go up. This also means that the wages of those capable of delivering those services will go up.
“This is the best time I have ever seen to get into the industry. There is a massive amount of opportunity for someone to join the trade, become a true professional, and be very successful,” he said.
Dr. Gordon Burns, Vance-Granville interim president, praised Frigi-Temp for its support of the college’s students. “This industry represents the partnerships critically needed with area industry and businesses to help our students gain valuable knowledge and the skills training to be job ready. As Frigi-Temp demonstrates so well, their donation of this equipment and their support of our apprenticeship program will not only help them find the technicians they need but also will guarantee to our students that they can meet the demands of industry. It’s truly a win-win for all.”
Students interested in enrolling in the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Technology program can contact program head Michael Whittemore at firstname.lastname@example.org or (252) 738-3214. Employers interested in partnering with VGCC on apprenticeships are encouraged to contact Ken Wilson, project manager for VGCC’s TechHire grant program, at email@example.com or (252) 738-3259 for more information.
In the photo above, Vance-Granville staff and faculty gather with Frigi-Temp representatives to celebrate the donation of a 12.5-ton rooftop commercial air conditioning unit to the Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration (ACHR) program at the college. From left are Ken Wilson, TechHire grant project manager; Eddie Ferguson, director of the Endowment Fund; Michael Whittemore, ACHR program head; Angela Gardner-Ragland, dean of Business & Applied Technologies; Dawn Michelle Tucker, dean of Continuing Education & Basic Skills; Kyle Burwell, director of Occupational Extension; Cory Thornton, chief operating officer for Frig-Temp; Tim Gray, president and owner, Frigi-Temp; and Kyle Hooss, organizational development manager for the Youngsville company.