What Do You Do When The Licensing Laws Are Not On Your Side?

May 21, 2019
Industry Q & A: Steve Chartier of Heritage Plumbing, Heating & Cooling

NexTech Academy profiles Steve Chartier, owner of Heritage PHCE on how he’s taken action to grow his own workforce using an online technical training program.

The Problem

Ever-changing state licensing, DOE and DOL laws have put a damper on Steve Chartier’s plan to grow his apprenticeship program. A man of action, Chartier has not taken these setbacks sitting down. He joined community groups and boards to lobby for changes in these requirements. His efforts paid off, recently resulting in changes that reduce the amount of on-the-job training hours. He also discovered that the U.S Office of Apprenticeship Standards enables businesses to take full responsibility supervising their technicians. The businesses decide when apprentices are ready to be in a truck and they are held liable.

Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

What Steve found is that changing the laws was only part of his challenge. He still needs to figure out how to get the right talent in the door and keep them motivated to learn.

The Heritage team has tried lots of things. They built a training center and have had different managers and senior technicians mentor technicians. They were lacking consistency. Their training program didn’t have enough structure and alignment. They didn’t see the results they wanted. “It’s too expensive to invest 8-10 months in an apprentice, having him learn from shadowing senior technicians to find out that they aren’t able to recall what they’ve learned, or hear that they haven’t had enough practice,” said Chartier.

The Big Idea

The Heritage team wants a foundational residential program that will prepare their apprentices to run maintenance-type calls in 3-6 months. “Each area of the business (plumbing, heating and electrical) will have their own dedicated person that will support the apprentices through the program. Our goal is to give them a solid education with lots of practice, so that they’ll be as productive as possible once they’re in the truck,” said Chartier. This requires a whole new approach to training—a competency model, not just time spent on jobs!

The Plan

  1. Hold a one day “Explore The Trades” Workshop. Ten to fifteen people who’ve expressed interest in the trades and Heritage, show up and participate in customer service training and small trade-specific tasks. The Heritage staff watches closely, paying attention to people who have a good attitude and show aptitude.
  2. Invite 2-3 people from the workshop to become apprentices. This means that they will work at Heritage full-time, with a decent wage and will be fully focused on their technical & customer service training.
  3. Use NexTech Academy as the foundation of their program, moving students from fundamentals to more complex tasks. Apprentices will use their training center to practice tasks and will get approval from senior techs and managers as they move through the curriculum. “Creating technical training in-house is hard and it’s even harder to deliver it in person, because if an apprentice misses a day, it’s hard to catch up. I like that with an online technical training program, apprentices can catch up easily and redo content if they need to,” said Chartier.
  4. Monitor progress closely, provide support and discuss progress often. Have apprentices shift to the field as they’ve demonstrated competency and confidence.

Next Steps

Currently, Heritage has one administrator and three students enrolled in NexTech’s HVAC program. They’re looking at the plumbing program and they’re excited for electrical to be ready. They’ve got workshops planned and interested potential candidates lined up!

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