Story behind partnership to enhance HVAC training program in Florida

Written on: April 14, 2021 by ICM

The Florida Career College (FCC), Orlando, FL has partnered with Strada Services to enhance its HVAC training program. The new partnership, inspired by the Building Talent Foundation, has led to an enhanced HVAC curriculum through the creation of a special training module and building of a new on-campus simulation lab to provide additional hands-on training for students.
Joe Strada was not a typical teenager. He began developing his expertise in construction, electrical and HVAC contracting with an entry-level job a well-known Florida company when he was just 14 years old. Through apprenticeships and on-the-job training, he eventually earned certifications in Electric, HVAC, Plumbing, Residential Building, and General Contracting. By the age of 19, Strada formed his own company.

The new training lab was created to give students hands-on training in duct-work installation.

“I never went to a day of college, but I was willing to work hard in order to be good at what I do. And that’s really the key to success,” he said. “I’m really big on training people on the job because that’s how I learned.”
During his early years of experience, Strada noticed the growing need for a dependable electrical contractors in Florida who embodied the same dedication to customer service that he believed in. In 2003, Strada co-founded the company known today as Strada Services.
Through a decade of hard work and dedication to customer service, Strada and his team have successfully transformed Strada Services into a major provider of commercial and residential electrical, HVAC and security services. The company now has more than 23 locations throughout Florida and is poised for sustained growth.
Along with Strada Services’ growth and success has come a challenge for the company: finding qualified candidates to hire.
“It has been hard to keep hiring on pace with our level of growth. We provide on the job training, but not everyone comes to us with the same level of skills,” Strada said. “Right now I have 1,000 employees and could possibly double over the next few years, so we were looking for ways to better identify skilled candidates who are motivated to enter the HVAC field, and are able to demonstrate a passionate commitment to customer service.”
Manny Forty, Orlando Engagement Manager for the Building Talent Foundation (BTF), thought he might have a way to help Strada Services.
BTF’s purpose is to “address the severe and persistent labor shortage across skilled trades by improving talent supply, training and retention,” according to the non-profit’s website. “Founded by the 20 leading residential construction companies in the U.S. in 2019, BTF brings together employers, educators, and all other market players, in regional skills collaborations, to catalyze, accelerate and synchronize joint projects for building the sector’s workforce of the future.”
“At BTF our mission is to advance the education, training, and career progression of young people, and people from underrepresented groups, so they can advance in the skilled trades. One of the ways we do this is by serving as a line of communication between companies and training providers,” Forty said. “So when I heard about Joe’s needs at Strada [Services], I thought Florida Career College might be a good fit.”
As part of his role with BTF, Forty works closely with a variety of training providers in the Orlando area and had an established relationship with Florida Career College (FCC). He knew FCC provided great training because he had recently helped another company host a job fair at the FCC campus in Orlando. That day, 11 HVAC students were hired on-the-spot.
“The people at FCC are really great to work with. The instructors are experienced HVAC pros who are dedicated to providing the best possible training to help their students succeed in the field,” Forty said. “So, we connected Strada [Services] with FCC and the idea developed to create specialized training to meet their needs.”
“We’ve hired several FCC graduates over the years and I’ve been happy with how well they are prepared. I was absolutely willing to work with them on a special new training program,” Strada said. “Given the opportunity to work with a school to help train qualified candidates who are being taught the core skills that we need is a tremendous opportunity for us.”
Forty, Strada and other leaders from Strada Services met with instructors at FCC to discuss their training needs.
While the HVAC training program at FCC provided a solid foundation for students to succeed at Strada Services, the company suggested an additional training module focused on HVAC installation – one of their core services.
“At FCC we’ve always taken pride in the fact that our curriculum is designed to be ‘real world’, reflecting the industry’s current needs. Our program and curriculum are periodically reviewed by a special Professional Advisory Council made up of HVAC company operators and experts,” said Juan Villegas, HVAC Program Chair at FCC Orlando. “But because Strada [Services] specializes in HVAC installation, there needed to be additional training in ‘rough in’ skills.”
The HVAC “rough in” period refers to when the HVAC ductwork has been installed, yet no plumbing or electrical, have been put into place. This makes it easier for building inspectors to evaluate every aspect of the ductwork, making sure that it is not contaminated and is fit for use.
Villegas went to work developing a special training module and the FCC campus built a special new simulation lab for students to get hands-on ductwork installation experience. All of this was done in less than a month and under the guidance leaders at Strada Services.
“It was quite impressive that FCC responded and delivered everything in a month,” Forty said. “It demonstrates their commitment to responding to the needs of the profession.”
“The new installation training module is four weeks long. Once students complete it, they are eligible to enter into Strada [Services’] paid apprenticeship program,” said Edward Tordesillas, Director of Career Services at FCC Orlando. “This is a true win/win situation – especially for students. This is a great opportunity for our HVAC students to get hired with a leading company.”
The new lab finished construction in March and shortly after, the inaugural cohort of 20 HVAC students began taking the new training module.
“This is exciting. Now, with this program at FCC, we will be able to raise the starting level of our entry-level training, and their learning curve is much shorter. On day one they’ll be out on a job site,” Strada said.
“We are proud of this new partnership and the opportunities it provides for our students. Our entire campus team worked hard to make this happen and I am proud of everyone involved; thank you for your continued dedication to serving students and meeting the needs of employers,” said Deborah Ferrari, Executive Director of FCC Orlando.
SOURCE Florida Career College