HVAC pre-apprenticeship program aims to improve skilled worker pipeline

HVAC pre-apprenticeship program aims to improve skilled worker pipeline

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Dive Brief

The Pryor High School Innovation Center in Oklahoma is using Interplay Learning’s platform to provide hands-on training that includes repairing and maintaining the school’s HVAC systems.

Published March 14, 2024

A student talks with a training instructor to fix an outdoor air conditioner.

As the market grapples with a shortage of skilled labor, apprenticeship programs, like the one shown here, are gaining momentum as a pathway for directing much-needed talent into crucial industries.

Dragos Condrea via Getty Images

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Facilities Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The Pryor High School Innovation Center in Pryor, Oklahoma, is tapping Interplay Learning’s training platform to run its new HVAC pre-apprenticeship program, according to a Tuesday news release.
  • Participating high school seniors will take a semester of online courses, in-person training with an HVAC instructor and daily internship hours with the school’s maintenance department.
  • The initiative will help students collect U.S. Department of Labor-approved apprenticeship hours and prepare them to take OSHA-10 and EPA 608 exams to obtain industry-recognized certifications, Interplay said. After graduating, students can retain access to course materials and obtain personalized referrals to entry-level positions with local businesses, including the program’s sponsors, RAE Corp. and MidAmerica Industrial Park.  

Dive Insight:

The facilities management industry has been grappling with a shortage of skilled labor, amid an aging workforce, early retirements and a scarcity of young talent, according to a report from JLL Technologies. 

Against that backdrop, apprenticeships are gaining momentum as a pathway for directing much-needed talent into crucial industries. Last December, the DOL proposed a rule to modernize regulations for registered apprenticeships through measures that include promoting pre-apprenticeship programs and making occupational skills and training more portable. 

The HVAC pre-apprenticeship program at Pryor High School Innovation Center is “designed to take students from zero industry skills to job-ready,” Interplay Learning said in the release. It will be offered to two high school seniors each semester.

The Austin, Texas-based company’s platform will be used to provide students with lessons on HVAC fundamentals and safety through online and video courses, hands-on 3D troubleshooting simulations and virtual reality. These modules will help students practice soft skills and apply theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios, Interplay Learning noted. Students will also get in-person mentorship from an HVAC instructor and intern with their school’s maintenance department for three hours every day, learning how to maintain and repair the school’s HVAC and electrical systems. 

“This forward-thinking program sets the stage for a new era of early trades education and career exposure, bridging the gap between classroom learning and real-world application,” Interplay Learning CEO and founder Doug Donovan said in the release. 

The program is backed by RAE Corp., which manufactures commercial and industrial refrigeration and cooling systems, and MidAmerica Industrial Park, which seeks to boost area employment by encouraging new businesses and assisting in the growth of existing ones, according to the release. 

In February, the Biden administration announced nearly $200 million in grants to expand registered apprenticeship programs that focus on high-demand areas such as clean energy, hospitality and supply chain sectors, including logistics, warehousing, transportation and manufacturing.

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