Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Shopping for Jobs

Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Shopping for Jobs

Article excerpt

River Falls Mall sprawls over 93 acres of choice real estate in Clarksville, Indiana, a town actally considered part of suburban Louisville, Kentucky. At 750,000 square feet, River Falls is one of the largest shopping malls in the area,

All that space requires a small army of technicians to maintain a state-of-the-art environmental control system that keeps customers cool in summer and warm in winter. In 1991, recognizing an opportunity, educators from nearby Ivy Tech State College met with mall overseers General Growth Management. The company agreed to let Ivy Tech use River Falls as an enormous heating, ventilation and air conditioning laboratory.

Ivy Tech State College is a public technical college in Sellersburg, Indiana--10 minutes from the mall. The college offers one-and two-year degrees in medical, business, computer and technical programs to more than 2,500 students.

Under the River Falls agreement, students in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) program intern at the mall on Saturdays, working eight hours under the full-time technicians there. Although they are not paid, the interns get invaluable hands-on training in routine maintenance, troubleshooting and inspection. They inspect and test back-up HVAC units, maintain boilers, work with compression systems used in mechanical refrigeration and air conditioning and maintain commercial environmental control equipment.

Some interns are first-time job seekers and others have had experience in the HVAC industry. Most are older students who want to change careers.

Bob Humphrey, chair of the HVAC program, and associate faculty member Charles Wade created the internship program. Humphrey calls the arrangement a winning situation for everyone involved.

"We were looking for advanced internship sites for our HVAC students. River Falls was looking for an innovative way to handle preventive maintenance for their environmental control system. Students were eager to find real-world learning experiences. This works for all parties," he says.

Initially, Humphrey says, the interns were intended to work only on preventive maintenance. As they proved their ability and trustworthiness, the interns were given responsibility for troubleshooting, service on advanced computer-controlled systems and even consultation work on engineering alterations and system additions.

While students get intensive on-the-job training, the mall benefits, too.

Bob Adams, director of operation and public safety for River Falls Mall, says he compared several months of gas consumption reports from 1991 to 1993 and found substantial savings for November and December 1992 and January 1993.

"We contributed these savings directly to our ability to work in a partnership with the Ivy Tech State College HVAC internship program," Adams says. "They have been able to identify a number of problems."

Adams also glows over recent praise from one of the company's top national engineers, who said the mall's units were the cleanest and best kept he had seen.


Student interns see the program as an exceptional professional opportunity. The internship program is limited to 10 students who work with the River Falls Mall staff for eight hours each week during the semester. Since 1991, 40 students have gone through the program. …

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