Lanier Technical College is the first technical college in the state to offer an apprenticeship program to its students.
The HVAC apprenticeship certificate is a new offering this year, the first of its kind for the Technical College System of Georgia and a new addition to the air conditioning technology program at Lanier Tech.
The three-year apprenticeship involves six on-site classes and one online class. The student must also be sponsored and employed by a heating, ventilation and air conditioning licensed contractor.
“It’s a curriculum based on national standards,” program Chairman Freddie Williams explained. The skills learned in the apprenticeship program can be transferred. If a student moves to another state in the midst of training, the credits will move over.
Participating contractors become what is called a “licensed apprenticeship site” with the Department of Labor, Williams said. Through that designation, their employees can receive a certificate, as well, through the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
“At this time, we don’t have a degree or a diploma in HVAC,” said Williams. “We’re the test site for the state to see how (the apprenticeship program) works.”
Georgia follows in the footsteps of other states that have implemented apprenticeship programs.
“This is a pilot program,” said Dana Nichols, dean of academic affairs at the Oakwood campus. “We’re watching closely to see how this goes.”
The school is in the process of accepting students for the program, which is set to begin in August. Six HVAC contractors have signed on to the program, as well.
“We’ve had a lot of requests for information for the program,” Nichols said. “We’re hopeful that it will have a strong response.”
The Lanier Tech Oakwood campus will be the only one to offer the apprenticeship program at this time. The school does offer a diploma in air conditioning technology, and certificates in basic residential air conditioning system design and basic residential gas heat design.
Williams explained that the HVAC program is for construction workers, and will be offered in the evening. The air conditioning program that the school has offered is for service technicians, and is offered during the day.
In creating the program, Nichols said it was important to look at the needs of area contractors.
“We actually had an information meeting,” she said. “We invited local contractors in to tell them what we were planning to do ... their positive response was overwhelming.”
She said that area contractors had shared how they were having a difficult time in finding qualified employees with training.
She said an apprenticeship is how work training was done in the past. It’s a model she is excited about, and hopes to see expand to other programs at some point.
“Our mission is workforce development,” she said. “This is just an excellent fit for us because it produces a workforce sooner rather than later. They can learn while they earn.”