New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | March 23, 2019

Donations continue to push Bridging Communities programs to forefront

By Andre Jones | February 24, 2017 3:08 pm
Second year HVAC students get a first look at a piece of new equipment donated by Lennox Industries as representative Earl George (rear) provides information about the changes in technology to the unit.Andre' Jones photo

Second year HVAC students get a first look at a piece of new equipment donated by Lennox Industries as representative Earl George (rear) provides information about the changes in technology to the unit.

Andre' Jones photo

Donations of money, time, and equipment have become more of a frequency for Bridging Communities Career and Technical Center since its opening in 2012. One such donation from Lennox Industries looks to push the school’s HVAC program to the forefront of advancement.

Friday’s afternoon presentation of equipment to Bridging Communities marked what is believed to be a partnership to spark interest in more students to pursuing a career in the HVAC field.

“Right now the HVAC field has the latest and greatest contractors looking to join them,” said Bridging Communities HVAC instructor Tom Fowler. “There are a lot of major manufacturers looking for new works.

“Coming through this program, a student can apply for a job and get hired by that contractor based on what is taught here,” Fowler added. “Our students receive opportunities to advance quicker in the field and receive certification.”

With the continuing growth of school, programs have received donations from outside sources to continue the education to succeed in a variety of trades in the real world. One such donation from Lennox Industries presented several ventilation and heating units to the school’s program.

“When I first got here, I told [Bridging Communities Director] Dr. Stephen Trexler I needed $20,000 in equipment and that was one piece,” commented Fowler. “Thanks to companies such as Lennox, we don’t ask for much.”

According to Fowler, donations range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. For Lennox Industries, working with schools such as Bridging Communities reaps benefits for both the school and the company.

“We travel all around the United States helping schools such as this one promote our field,” said Lennox Industries representative Earl George. “In our industry right now there is a shortage of workers anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000. In about three years, that number could be as great as 150,000.

“Most students don’t bring the skill sets when they enter the industry,” George continued. “We donate equipment to programs because this field is always changing. There is always new technology and what this school teaches can allow our company to hire students who know what to do once they graduate.”

The classes at Bridging Communities serve as a gateway to a number of certifications. The school offers an introductory and advanced class for students, who can later choose to take those courses to Rappahannock Community College.

“It will take about two years for students to earn a career certificate after starting here,” Fowler commented. “They will receive EPA and OSHA certification, as well as meeting the standards that are recognized in the field.”

Both Fowler and George said the program provides a number of options to students.

“You definitely get a return investment,” George said. “A student can take two years and work right out of high school while attending community college and end up making close to $56,000 a year.

“By comparison, a student can attend a four-year school for engineering, be $100,000 in debt when they graduate, and only make $40,000 a year,” the Lennox representative continued. “There are a number of opportunities available in the HVAC field and we want to continue students to pursue them.”

As for Fowler, with a current enrollment of 15 students in his first-year program and four students in his second-year class, he expects that number to go up, along with donations.

“We see the growth here and we see the program garnering interest,” the instructor said. “I think when a company invests in us, they can see that we are going to yield job opportunities for these students.”