ACHR is a Hot 21st Century Skilled Trade

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It is one of those high-demand career fields that will never move offshore, according to Clark Harris, Dean of the Technology Division at Mott Community College (MCC). He is referring to Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration (ACHR), which is not only a secure career field but also one of the fastest growing skilled trades in the U.S.

“This is one of those careers that can help close the so-called ‘skills gap’ that is essential to America’s economic success in the 21st Century,” said Harris. “All of our buildings require installation and maintenance of heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality. It is a high-demand field.”

IMG_1899The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the ACHR field will grow 21 percent by 2022, which is faster than the average growth for all career fields during the same time period. This growth represents an additional 55,900 job openings nationwide. The BLS reports that the annual median pay is $43,640; however, highly skilled technicians can earn up to $80,000 per year in southeast Michigan, according to Jeff Brandes, ACHR faculty at MCC, based on his recent experience in
the field.

ACHR technicians are responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of refrigeration and climate control equipment systems.

The Mott College ACHR Program prepares students for this high-demand field through a combination of classroom theory and hands-on laboratory experiences using real-world equipment. Students learn installation, service, testing and troubleshooting skills to prepare them for the demands of the workforce.

“MCC recently was awarded $500,000 in new ACHR equipment through the Community College Skilled Trades Equipment Program (CCSTEP) grant from the State of Michigan,” said Harris. “These new pieces of equipment enable us to bring industry trends right into the classroom and give students intensive hands-on lab experiences preparing them to be problem solvers when they enter the job market.”

The CCSTEP equipment purchases include four commercial refrigeration trainers to enhance lab experiences in trouble shooting commercial refrigeration systems, and 14 residential/light commercial electrical trainers, in three different configurations, to teach electrical troubleshooting on all residential and single phase heating, air conditioning, heat-pump and refrigeration systems.

In addition, six three-phase electrical trainers were purchased for motor theory, wiring, and trouble shooting for commercial and industrial applications, two geo-thermal systems trainers to teach principles, theory and trouble shooting of geo-thermal heating and air conditioning systems, and one solar heating and solar photovoltaic trainer to introduce students to the principles of solar heating and power generation using solar panels.

Students completing the MCC ACHR program earn an Associate in Applied Science degree or ACHR Certificate of Achievement. Earning the degree is important for this career field because many employers prefer that their employees have a postsecondary education. The EPA requires ACHR technicians to be licensed in refrigerant handling. The MCC ACHR program prepares students to take the refrigerant Handling licensing examinations.

Graduates of the ACHR program at Mott College are qualified to enter an assortment of high tech careers such as heating and air conditioning technician, refrigeration technician, air and water balance technician, boiler operator, ductwork and sheet metal installer, pipe fitter, control systems technician, calibration and instrumentation technician. Building maintenance technician, According to Brandes, “many of the skills taught in this program can be used in other fields.”

For more information about the ACHR program at MCC, contact, call 810-762-0500 or visit

Alumni Profile

James Pellow’s Second Career

James Pellow

James Pellow

James Pellow, 53, is part of two national trends – he has bridged the ‘skills gap’ by earning his Associate of Applied Science at MCC in ACHR, and he is one of a growing number of military veterans returning to college to be a part of the 21st Century Skilled Trades workforce. There are a number of military veterans enrolled in the ACHR program at MCC according to Clark Harris, Dean of the Technology Division at MCC.

Military service leaves many men and women particularly well-prepared for careers in science, engineering and technology fields such as ACHR and Construction. Many veterans are familiar with the latest technology because of their military experiences, and they have the discipline and training to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, said Harris.

Pellow got into ACHR as a second career. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2006 and headed to Mott College in 2009. He chose ACHR because he had family working in the field and is “more of a hands-on person, and, I saw it as a field with a lot of opportunities for employment.”

Graduating from MCC’s ACHR program in 2012 he was soon hired by Ener-Tech Testing, a subsidiary of Dee Cramer HVAC and Sheet Metal Construction & Service, as an air and water balancing technician. “The skills and knowledge obtained in the ACHR Associate’s degree program at MCC were instrumental in attaining my position at Ener-Tech,” said Pellow.

Pellow credits the ACHR faculty at MCC for preparing him for his second career. “The instructors have sincere dedication to provide students with knowledge, reflection of their professional experience and information that will make them competitive in the job market.”

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