Matt Trudeau & Craig Hickman, HVAC/R Evening Instructors at MTTI

Matt Trudeau & Craig Hickman, HVAC/R Evening Instructors at MTTI

*Matt & Craig, HVAC/R Eve Instructors

“I know it’s a good HVAC/R program—I’ve been through it myself!”

Matt Trudeau graduated from MTTI’s first HVAC/R class in 2012-13. Matt has returned to MTTI to teach part-time in the evenings, while he continues to work in the HVAC Industry during the day. “The HVAC/R course was amazing—it grabbed my attention on day one and I never lost interest. The hands-on experience you gain is immeasurable. I no longer have just a job—I have a career. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Before training at MTTI, Matt worked in property maintenance in Ohio.

When he moved back to Massachusetts, he knew he wanted to make a change. “I was working part-time in Massachusetts, but knew I wanted to work strictly in HVAC.  My finance (now wife) saw the billboard for MTTI’s new HVAC/R Technician program. I said noncommittally ‘that sounds interesting’. I might have procrastinated about starting school, but I’m glad I didn’t.”

When he visited MTTI, Matt was talked out of enrolling in the HVAC/R program.

“I met with the person who was developing the HVAC/R curriculum for the first class. When he heard what I had been doing as a property maintenance technician, he directed me to the Building & Property Trades program! Building Trades is a great course, but during the first week in the program I recognized that I would be learning the work I had already been doing.

The new HVACR instructor was hired for the first class; Matt made the switch.

“You don’t just meet the staff at MTTI; you get to know them. Instructors and staff make you feel part of a team. We needed that team spirit when we lost our Instructor. Rob passed away unexpectedly on a snowy day in February. We all liked Rob; it was traumatic—a real loss. Pat Church, the Lead Building Trades Instructor, stepped right in and taught us oil. The new HVAC/R Instructor, Roland took over the class. Everyone at MTTI made sure we had as smooth a transition as possible to complete the course.”

Craig Hickman tells us, “Like the students I’m teaching, I was a night school guy.”

After graduating high school, Craig worked in the central plant facilities of a mall. “I wasn’t trained in HVAC. I just did basic maintenance—changing air filters and belts; I got some exposure to chillers and boilers. I recognized that the job would be dead-end; I needed a career.”

Craig attended college for a year, but found it wasn’t for him.

“Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with some tradesmen. I’m thankful that at 18 or 19, I worked with a guy licensed in HVAC. What I learned from him challenged and interested me—and ultimately encouraged me to pursue HVAC training.  I wanted to better myself, but couldn’t quit my day job. It took me 2 years to complete the program. It was hard to work days and go to school at night—but I’m glad I did it. It has paid off.”

After Matt graduated from MTTI, he worked with a company providing mostly residential service.

“The small amount of commercial work they did gave me a taste for it. Since moving on from that job, I have done all commercial work—I’ve never looked back. Each company I’ve worked with has given me a new appreciation of the trade. I gained commercial/industrial experience as a Critical Facilities Technician, where I was responsible for overall performance of energy management, generators, HVAC equipment and cooling towers—everything there needed to be running in tip-top shape. At another company, I worked for a family business that had started in pneumatic controls and was building into A/C, Heating and Refrigeration.”

Matt says, “I bring my real-world commercial experience to the students.”

"I’m in the field—doing the same work they will be doing. I talk to them about my day. I let them know what it is really like to work in the industry. I tell them that travel may be a part of it. You don’t ‘read experience’ in a book. If I can give them what I’ve learned from my own experience, my hope is they will go out using their brains and make a good living.”

When Craig looked for his first job after school, he didn’t have placement assistance.

“Unlike students at MTTI, that benefit wasn’t available for me; I looked for a job on my own. My training gave me some confidence that I could break into the industry. Morris Mechanical in Clinton, Massachusetts gave me a chance. I loved working there, but left to apprentice with a Union company that approached me—they offered more pay. I stayed with the Union for 10 years. Many days I regretted leaving Morris. I’ve learned that job satisfaction is not always about the money.”

One day, Craig unexpectedly received a phone call from Morris Mechanical.

“After I left the union job, I spent a short time in controls. It wasn’t a great fit. Morris called me just to see how I was doing. I had chiller experience, and they do that work. They offered me the opportunity to come back; I accepted a position as a Lead Technician. Morris has young apprentices that need training; I have the experience to teach them. Morris is like family; I couldn’t ask for better people to work with or a better company to work for."

When Craig received a letter from MTTI looking for teachers, he thought, ‘I’ll reach out’.

“I appreciated the guys who had first mentored me when I was new to the industry—that gave me an interest in teaching.  That’s what you hope happens—you get a good foundation in school and then, on the job, industry veterans will share what they know; they will pass the torch to you. I wanted to pass on the information and knowledge to students at MTTI, just as those guys had done for me.”

"Being able to help others learn the trade is incredibly rewarding," says Craig.

"The first couple of nights, as a new Instructor in MTTI’s shop, some students were struggling with circuits. I explained how they work, and saw the ‘light go on’ in their heads. I enjoy that. I’ve been surprised to see how many students get picked up by HVAC/R employers and start working in the industry while still in the evening program. There is a high demand for qualified Techs in the industry. Good workers are hard to find; employers are willing to invest in training the good ones.”

Matt says, ”There is so much to this trade—there are so many doors you can open.”

“I get excited about coming to school to teach in the evening, even though I do this work all day long. Working in the HVACR industry doesn’t mean you have to be just one thing—a service technician or an installer. You can work at both. Or you can work with electronic equipment, programming and wiring controls as a control technician.  Another option is to work in sheet metal, creating products for heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. Try out different positions—if one doesn’t work, you can work at another.”