Program Director, BirminghamJohn
“I am originally from North Carolina. I joined the military when I finished high school and traveled all my life. When I retired, my wife had been with me going everywhere. Well, we have family in North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina, so we decided to pick one of those places to retire and since she’s gone everywhere with me, I gave her the choice.
HVAC-R is what I’ve done all my life. I was in the Air Force. I was stationed everywhere. Overseas most of the time, Korea, Germany, Hawaii twice, Japan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and then stateside, North Carolina, Delaware and Florida.
I actually looked into teaching and started as an adjunct. I came on board at the end of July 2015. I met with the program director, started teaching part time and after a couple of weeks, we started talking and because of my extensive background, all my degrees, he said, ‘You’d make a good program director.’ At the end of that term, he decided to get another job and I got the job. The way I looked at it was, and this is the way that I’ve looked at it since I retired, was that the American people paid for me to learn this, so I’m going to give back by going out there and teaching somebody else. It’s all I wanted to do.
“The American people paid for me to learn this, so I’m going to give back by going out there and teaching somebody else.”
I wanted to make sure that I was giving back with a company that has the right mission and vision. Every job I’ve ever looked for after the military, one thing that I always ask and look for is the vision statement and the mission statement, no matter where I go. That’s what I look forward to. It’s more than a full-time job. I’m not out of here sometimes until 10:30 at night. Because we teach day and night classes, I feel it’s only right to give to the daytime students the same amount of time as the nighttime students.
I can be intimidating. The way I come across. I’m straight-forward, I tell it like it is. That’s the only way it should be. No one is going to hire you in this business, and pay you good money, until you prove yourself. It’s all about integrity and professionalism. You need to come here every day as if someone was going to give you a job, you never know.
No matter what, students have to retain the information, pass the test, etc. But they have jobs, family, lives, drama. They need to balance it out and it’s hard, so we’re here for that.
“It’s all about integrity and professionalism.”
A couple of the students, especially when they go out and get a good job and they’re successful, they come back after they graduate, while they’re working. They call, they stop by, they say, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing now. Thank you!’ I remember one student, she came in and said ‘This was the first college test I’ve ever passed,’ huge grin on her face. I wanted to take it and put it on MY refrigerator. It’s things like that. They want to be successful. And that’s what we’re doing here. We’re setting them up for success.
This is a hard business. You crawl under houses, you open attics, especially in Alabama. If it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s 150 in that attic. And you’re expected to go out there and work in that. It’s hard work. A lot of the students, when they come in here, they don’t realize it. This is a nice lab. This is not what you’re gonna be working in, this is not it. That’s why we integrate a lot of field trips. We take them on actual jobs. We offer the community, if they call us, ‘My AC is not working, and I can’t afford, you know, to go downtown and pay somebody a lot of money.’ We’ll send our students and our instructors out there. Which all of our instructors, myself, are all licensed and certified.
We touch every aspect of life — think about it, the food that sits in the store, it’s kept at a certain temperature to keep bacteria and disease out of it so you can eat it. Well, if it weren’t for the HVAC person, you wouldn’t be able to do that.”