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A problem in the classroom

Trouble Ahead

A problem in the classroom

There seems to be a problem with every training class/program I enroll in or conduct. I see the problem over and over so I know it’s not just something that happened one time or even two.

The problem is absence. Absence of those who would benefit the most from learning about the topic at hand. The contractors/guys/gals that do attend may have room for expansion of their knowledge for sure but the people that need the training the most are not attending the training for various reasons. This is a problem for the trainer, I get it but I tend to view it as a problem for everyone when looking at it from a competition viewpoint. Let me explain.

I have been a plumbing and hydronics contractor for about ten years. I have also taught for an apprenticeship and journeyman-training program for seven years. I have been in or around the plumbing trade nearly all of my life; along the way I have sat through dozens of training classes ranging from a couple of hours or less to a few days depending on the subject and depth. I also hate a sales pitch disguised as training, just like you. eric_aune_1

Local wholesale managers that I buy from have approached me over the years about hydronics training seminars. I have trained in-house for manufacturers on boiler installations and I hope to continue to do so for many years. In no way am I even close to the trainer I’d like to be someday; I look up to guys like my friend John Barba for his knowledge and talents, would hope to possess levels of knowledge that guys like Dave Yates, Mark Eatherton or Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr have built over the years. But they have the same problems in their training sessions that I am talking about.

As the guy standing in front of the classroom it is expected of me to be prepared to present materials that the trainee will find useful on the job. That can be hard in and of itself but when a basic course is constructed and marketed to the people who need it most but attended by the people who already know the material there has been a disconnect.  The contractors who would benefit the most are the ones who are not there.

John Mesenbrink and I have asked all the qualifying questions of you, our friends on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ about just what it is that you as a contractor are looking for as an outline of good, desirable training. There seems to be a general consensus that FREE is a good thing but other qualities like content and proximity are big factors, too.  I think I share this opinion with many but, plumbing and heating companies who are good want to be better.

As a contractor myself I would prefer my competition be better trained so we can go into each job with the same end game in mind and tools to get there being common.

So, how do we convince these other people that they need to consider the value over the cost? What will convince them to look at it as an investment into their own company? It’s a big task and one that many have taken on for years and years. I am sure there has been progress made but there’s still a long way to go.


  1. Steve Wieland
    Steve Wieland02-28-2014


    After traveling looking at boiler installs full time for the past 4 years i can say. that I fully agree.. MOST CONTRACTORS NEED TRAINING!

    I hear you when you say FREE but here is the problem. First off, FREE is the most POPULAR word in the English dictionary! BUT when a training is FREE contractors SKIP the program if something else comes up, like a boiler repair. As a manufacture we invest HEAVILY in training, both in time, facility, travel; and resources. It stinks when we show up and have 20 people signed up and 3 actually attend!

    Now on the other hand if the contractor is INVESTED in the course, he’ll put that emergency off until later in the day. I say lets offer a charge for the course, but get back something in return. Say, pay $35 for the course and after you graduate I’ll give you a $50 credit toward your first purchase of my product. See now we have something!

    You get what you pay for. I should really charge you $150 for our course and offer you $200 credit.. but I get too much push back from the wholesaler on this.

    All the best,

    aka wheels

  2. Eric Aune
    Eric Aune03-01-2014

    I agree with all points, Steve. Thanks for commenting. Training contractors is very expensive and you’re right, when there is money on the line attendance is stronger. How do we get those who need it the most to consider attending?

  3. Jim Hilpipre
    Jim Hilpipre04-10-2014

    Interesting topic Eric,

    I completely agree with Steve in that there needs to be a fee to attend any kind of training as it ensures some kind of commitment to their desire to improve their skills in the trade and give them a better advantage of which, puts more money on the bottom line.

    But my first thought is that the majority of contractors do not charge enough for their services and do not even have a budget line item on their balance sheet for TRAINING. Most of these folks just look at their employees as having the day off with pay and no return to the company.

    Attending certain trainings over my years has resulted in incredible returns via discounts on product warranty extensions, listing on certain manufacturer’s websites as a “certified installer”, SALES LEADS and not to mention the crazy increase in knowledge on how systems are properly installed/commissioned..ETC.

    Unfortunately, my belief is that our industry is so overwhelmed by persons that solely rely on the Manufacturer’s Rep to solve their field issues that they seem as though training is a waste of their time and money since the service comes to them FREE of charge.

    If there was no FREE backup, is it possible the average contractor would decide to invest more in their employee training? I do not have the answer to this question but……….


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