Roger Baller and Loren Swanson have been hired to head up Career Quest Learning Centers’ (CQLC) new Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration (HVAC-R) program at its Lansing (3215 S. Pennsylvania Ave.) and Jackson (209 E. Washington Ave., Suite 241) campuses.
After a lifetime of HVAC-R experience, Roger Baller is well-suited to lead the program. He started working in the field when he was only 13 years old, helping his father with duct work. He participated in the HVAC-R diploma program at Cheboygan Area High School in 1975 and has continued to stay on top of industry trends since then. He served in the military from 1976 to 1982 as an anti-submarine air controller, and then earned his associate degree in heating and air conditioning in 1984. He has worked in a variety of roles since, most recently as a program director and instructor for Vatterott College in Joplin, Miss.
Baller says that while the demand for HVAC-R technicians is high, formal education is critical. “There isn’t an employer out there who will hire someone with no formal training nowadays, that’s why it is important to get educated and certified in this field.”
Loren Swanson, who serves as an HVAC-R instructor, began his career with General Electric in 1965, where he worked for 11 years. He then moved on to Southern Michigan Heating and Air Conditioning, where he worked for 37 years, while also teaching at Jackson Community College. Though he retired from contracting in 2013, he has stayed current
in the industry by leading the local Home Builders Association of Jackson as its local chapter Chairman and also teaching at Washtenaw College.
“There’s an obvious need for technicians, but how do you get the jobs filled if you don’t have someone to teach the best practices?” Swanson said. “A diploma or degree in HVAC-R is very necessary, because we need to provide the community with well-trained and educated employees.”
The CQLC training program focuses on the installation, maintenance and repair of HVAC-R systems, while preparing students for entry-level employment as HVAC-R technicians. The program, which includes system troubleshooting, maintenance skills and environmental systems, can be completed in under a year.
Swanson says construction, specifically HVAC-R, is a great industry for someone who is interested in a good career but does not want to spend four years earning a degree to get started. “If you’re good with your hands then get into trades or somewhere in construction,” he says. “If you’re someone who likes things to be a little more technical, then I think that HVAC would be a great fit. Wherever you choose to go, there is a place for you.”
Baller and Swanson agree that the HVAC-R field is ever-changing, something else that will keep the demand for new employees high. “The electronics that have developed in HVAC are changing the game,” Baller says. “There’s technology being developed constantly to incorporate better safety practices, and these technologies have brought customers more comfort. Because of the increase in the use of technology, it is important that HVAC-R programs always keep modifying their curriculum to align with what our students will be working on once they’re in the field.”
“With more technology comes better user experiences, but it does make things harder and more complicated for HVAC-R technicians,” Swanson adds. “That’s why education is so important. Only someone who has gone through a formal training program will have the capacity to answer all of their customer’s questions.”
Students interested in the CQLC HVAC-R program can contact an admissions representative at (877) 481-4930 for more information.