If it's true, as the saying goes, that timing is everything, then Tyrone Dumas must have it all. Dumas, the former director of Milwaukee County Public Works, joined the Milwaukee Public School District in January 1999 as the director of the Technical and Trade Education Division.
His first bit of good timing was that he had arrived at about the time the district decided to build a new technical and trade high school. That decision led the district to take a good look at its existing programs in the field. It was apparent to Dumas that the downsizing of the programs over the past two decades had left many in need of updating.
"I had an idea," says Dumas, "So I went to Custer High School. When I looked at the shop and the equipment, I saw that the kids were training on the oldest equipment. I met with then-principal Gail Sanders about my vision, and she bought into it."
He decided to begin implementing his new vision for the district in the Custer High School HVACR (heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration) program. That proved to be another display of excellent timing on his part.
The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), the trade association representing manufacturers of more than 90 percent of U.S.-produced central air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment, was looking for ways to promote careers and competency in the field. With the demand for skilled installation and repair technicians in the HVACR industry rising much faster than the supply and an estimated 22,000 new workers needed each year, the association needed to make middle school and high school students aware of the opportunities the industry offered.
A Campaign Is Launched
Dumas began looking for donations to make his vision a reality. "I did a lot of industry research and sent out letters to every major manufacturer I could come up with," he says.
Quite fortuitously, one of those solicitations ended up in the hands of Tom Mikulina, the vice president of industry relations for Trane Company, who is also a very active member of ARI and has served on a number of the organization's committees. Just a few weeks earlier, Mikulina had been in Washington, D.C., at an ARI meeting where he was given an assignment as chair of an ARI education subcommittee to find a way to raise awareness of the industry with high school teachers, students, parents and guidance counselors.
"When I got the letter," says Mikulina, "I thought, `Wow! Here's a school district that wants to start a program like this in a high school.'"
It was just the opportunity he was looking for because, he says, "When you do something like this, you want a pilot high school so you can find out if it works before you put it into a thousand schools."
He also knew some other people in the industry who would be willing to help--among them Keith Coursin, the president of Desert Aire Corp. (and a graduate of the Milwaukee Public Schools), and Lev Goldberg, the marketing manager for Standard Refrigeration Co.
The Custer High School HVACR program planning was also well timed with regard to a new partnership for industry standards. The Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) program includes HVACR educators and the industry. Representatives from ARI, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Council of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Educators (CARE), the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the North American Heating, Refrigerating & Air Conditioning Wholesalers Association (NHRAW), and the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) support the program and assist in the validation process. With programmatic accreditation from a recognized organization such as PAHRA, HVACR training programs could obtain federal, state and local funding. …