Manufacturers offer contractor training opportunities

July 31, 2014
Bradford White training courses are tailored specific to the customer attending.  Taco's FloPro University offers contractors in-the-field and factory classes.  Viega has an educational facility where contractors can participate in a variety of courses.  Aquatherm has broadened the scope of contractor training programs with new programs. 

CHICAGO — If you have attended industry trade shows and conventions during the past few years, no doubt you have come across discussions about training and educating contractors. Whether formally — during a seminar — or casually — when catching up with industry associates, it is clear that training and education are issues at the forefront of the mechanical contracting industry.

Taco University “live learning” events are one-day programs presented to groups in Taco's Innovation and Development Center.

There is no doubt that manufacturers play a huge role in training plumbing, hydronic and HVAC contractors. There are always new products and technologies on the market for contractors to learn about and become experts on. Attending a manufacturer’s training course on new products and installation techniques is a perfect way for contractors to beef up their skills while learning about the latest products in the industry. Below is a rundown of just some of the courses industry manufacturers are offering this year.   

Customized courses

At Bradford White’s International Technical Excellence Center, each training course offered is tailored specific to the customer that is attending.

Contractors are learning about the latest Bradford White products and installation techniques at the company’s International Technical Excellence Center.

According to Chad Sanborn, product marketing manager at Bradford White Water Heaters, classes are customized so there is no repeat information for returning customers, plus, the customers’ time is of utmost importance too since they are taking time out of their busy schedule to attend.

When creating a custom class, a Bradford White representative discusses what level of “training” the customer desires. The next step is to agree on a proposed training based on the customer’s request.

“We see manufacturer training for installing contractors and plumbers as an important part of what we do each day of the year,” said Sanborn. “After all, they’re the trade pros who get as close to our products as we do — and some would say, even closer. They install the systems and — with their reputations on the line — turn them over to families and businesses who count on them for reliable, safe operation.”

Bradford White representatives also travel to conventions, offering training courses and seminars.

“One of the new training courses that I've been giving is information on the new water heater regulations, and as you could imagine, that is a hot topic right now,” said Sanborn. “Classes on the NAECA III (DOE) 2015 changes are usually given on the road. Although we will provide trainings at iTEC if desired, our representatives have been discussing this topic in full force in the field.”

Sanborn is scheduled to present a training course at the 2014 PHCC Connect conference in October. 

Real-world applications

Navien, tankless water heater manufacturer, also offers a contractor training program, providing industry professionals with the education they need to correctly install and maintain Navien products. Hands-on training is offered in Irvine, Calif., Cherry Hill, N.J., and Vaughan, Ontario.

Contractors taking a course at Navien’s Cherry Hill, N.J., Training Academy.

“Training has played a significant role in the company’s growth and success in the North American market,” said Eric Moffroid, vice president of sales, marketing & training. “A well-educated contractor is Navien’s strongest resource.”

Taught by seasoned trainers, the academies provide the opportunity to learn real world applications and work confidently in the field. Courses are available for all Navien products, past and present. Attendance is limited to professionals only, including contractor, wholesaler employees, builders, architects, engineers, property managers, utility workers, etc.

Have you recently taken classes at any of these manufacturers' facilities? Let us know about your experience at Plumbing Talk

Navien also offers a variety of in-field training throughout North America. Courses range from a basic introduction to installation and maintenance of Navien units. Contractors can also learn through Navien’s monthly webinars. 

Another industry manufacturer offering a variety of training courses for contractors is Taco.

The company’s FloPro University (FloPro U) offers contractors in-the-field and factory classes.

Pictured left to right is Dan Foley, president of Foley Mechanical, Lorton, Va., John Abularrage, president of Advance Radiant Design, Stone Ridge, N.Y., and John Barba, Taco's contractor training and trade program manager.

Its residential and commercial training programs offer a diversity of technical and professional development opportunities for plumbing and heating contractors and commercial system designers and engineers. Participants learn to grow their hydronic installation or system design expertise, and to boost profitability. Factory training and local training opportunities at rep and wholesaler locations are plentiful.

Taco FloPro Factory Training is advanced education for hydronic installers and designers who want to become better educated professionals, compete more effectively, and grow their business with greater knowledge and expertise. Participants come out of this training with knowledge of the latest energy-saving technologies, installations techniques and profit opportunities.  

Taco also offers free webinars for FloPro Team members, all of which are archived in the FloPro Neighborhood online. These programs are held twice monthly.  The one-hour sessions cover a wide range of topics, such as Profitable Hydronics in Today’s Market and Zone Valves or Circulators: The Ultimate Debate.

For commercial system engineers and designers, Taco University “live learning” events are intensive one-day programs presented to small groups in Taco's advanced Innovation and Development Center. Also, there’s a growing number of training videos at the Taco site found on individual product pages or on the Taco video library or Taco’s youtube channel — TacoHVAC.

Laars offers contractor training courses too. The manufacturer’s Customer Center is designed to specifically educate HVAC professionals about hydronic systems and Laars’ current and next generation of heating technology.

Contractors learn about hydronic systems at Laars’ Customer Center.

The company is known for its flexibility in training content and techniques. Upcoming courses include seminars on the Residential & Commercial NeoTherm / Mascot LX; Understanding Controls, Sola, M-4, BACnet Gateway, Cascading, SIT; and Pennant, MT2 and Mighty Stack.

Viega, another prominent manufacturer, also has an educational facility where contractors can participate in a variety of different training courses covering topics including plumbing, press technology, radiant systems, hydronics, pathogen prevention, solar thermal systems, geothermal systems and snow and ice melting. Viega instructors customize the courses to meet the individual needs and experience level of the attending contractors.

Jason McKinnon, manager of training and technical support at Viega, teaches a plumbing course.

“The Viega educational facility is a fantastic resource for contractors, engineers and distributors to learn about innovative systems, as well as the industry in general,” said Jason McKinnon, manager, training and technical support, Viega. “The industry is constantly changing and we help our customers evolve along with the new technologies and products.”

Also offering training is Victaulic. The company’s training program has different facets including Full Certification, lunch and learns and customer experience (hands-on) training. 

Contractors at a recent Victaulic Certification Program.

"In order to remain ahead of the curve in an ever-changing environment with new technologies, responsibilities and turnover, contractors must maintain a focus on ongoing training and education," commented Eric Luftig, vice president of marketing, training, and construction services at Victaulic. This fall Modine is offering contractors a variety of courses, including geothermal training and products training.

Victaulic's most popular and customer demanded class, the Victaulic Certification Program, helps keep contractors up-to-date with latest best practices in groove mechanical pipe systems. The hands-on training can be delivered onsite, in the shop or at a corporate facility. Once a contractor’s labor force goes through the program, they are certified to work on Victaulic grooved mechanical piping systems. 

New training courses

Now, with more than 17,000 installers trained, Aquatherm has broadened the scope of its contractor training programs this year, launching two new training programs.

“Realizing we now have decent coverage of the continent in terms of installers,” said Dalton Clark, director of training at Aquatherm, “the next step is to address the factors that result in financial benefit for these installers.”

Aquatherm offers a variety of courses for contractors, along with two new courses this year.

The Contractor Profitability Course helps project managers identify and avoid the common stumbling blocks encountered on a first-time install. Addressing appropriate take-off and estimation methods, productivity-driven build strategies, and harnessing the power of prefabrication, all yield greater project profitability. Recently some large mechanical contractors attended this course at Aquatherm’s headquarters in Lindon, Utah.

“When given the opportunity to ask one of our largest mechanical contractors to review labor savings with Aquatherm, it was a no brainer,” explained Eric Martin with James Martin Co. Inc., an Aquatherm rep based in Bensalem, Pa. “Along with our wholesale partner and four representatives of the contractor, we reviewed the contractor’s takeoff with the Aquatherm team offering labor-saving solutions. The end result was significant.”

Additionally, Aquatherm introduced an internal Engineering Specification Support program to help its national sales team win engineering specs nationwide. This will lead to more opportunities for the Aquatherm contractor to win jobs and make money. Plus, Aquatherm  expects to launch an addition to the Aquatherm Installer Course this fall. This training extends beyond fusion techniques and teaches the methodology and tooling involved in exponentially increasing productivity by helping contractors comfortably bid and beat project estimates. 

This year Modine is offering two new courses for installing contractors.

“We pay attention to the need for contractor training and — for several years — have been increasing training for installers each year at our own facility, at Gateway Technical College, and also at rep and wholesaler locations,” said Ray Schaffart, marketing & sales support manager, Modine Manufacturing Co. “After all, it’s contractors who get the greater share of face-time with end-users in the commercial, institutional and residential markets.”

Contractors at Gateway Technical College's HVAC school in the all-new Modine Lab.

The two-day geothermal session in early October will provide an overview of Modine's geothermal solutions, as well as replicate some of the instruction contractors would receive at an IGSHPA course. The course will focus on installing, servicing and selling the advantages of Modine's line of geothermal solutions through working on live units. On day one training will be at Modine headquarters in Racine, Wisc. The second day will be at Gateway Technical College's HVAC school in the all-new Modine Lab. The session is open to contractors, distributors and Modine reps.

Modine is also offering Distributed Products Training in September. This two-day session is designed to provide an overview of Modine's distributed products as well as give attendees time to learn about start-up, service and proper maintenance in a hands-on setting. This session is open to contractors, distributors and Modine reps. Topics to be covered during training include, but not limited to, gas-fired unit heaters, hydronic unit heaters, infrared heaters and Modine controls System Product Overviews.

According to Schaffart, if industry manufacturers build better relationships with contractors and in doing so help them become smarter, better educated trade professionals, that’s an advantage for the industry as a whole. 

“If we can build a better network of inspired and educated contractors, they’ll be better equipped to confidently promote their expertise and the right mechanical solution,” said Schaffart.    

About the Author

Candace Roulo

Candace Roulo, senior editor of CONTRACTOR and graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, has 15 years of industry experience in the media and construction industries. She covers a variety of mechanical contracting topics, from sustainable construction practices and policy issues affecting contractors to continuing education for industry professionals and the best business practices that contractors can implement to run successful businesses.      

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