IMMOKALEE - In a time when good paying jobs are hard to find, there are twelve Heavy Equipment Service Technician (HEST) students from Immokalee Technical College who are on a career path with starting pay at $22.00 an hour. These twelve students studied and worked five and a half hours a day for five weeks and then had to pass a four hour test to earn their federally regulated 609 Air Conditioning Certification which makes them iTECH’s Students of the Month for February.
“To earn this certification requires major intensive work,” says Robert Boyle, the instructor. “Having this certification proves that these students have met all the guidelines required by federal law. They have the skills to diagnose, order parts, and repair the air conditioning on any wheeled vehicle in all 50 states and any United States territory.” (As you read this, you might be wondering how hard can ordering parts be? Pretty hard considering there are four major air conditioning systems and over 100 different configurations. Before any parts can be ordered, the certified technician has to be able to identify not only the system, but also the configuration.)
The air conditioning certification is one of six certifications students can achieve in the two year program. Hydrolics, transmission, diesel engines, electrical systems, and air brakes are included in the curriculum. “There’s a lot to learn,” adds Boyle who has over 30 years of experience in the field. “The students benefit from summer internships in Immokalee, Naples, Ft. Myers, and Sarasota. They are paid to learn and work in the real world.”
The HEST Program boasts 100 percent placement rate for its graduates, many of whom achieve journey level within a few months meaning they are proficient enough to work on diesel vehicles by themselves or with very little help. Journey level also means that the hourly rate of pay increases considerably.