How are you training?

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It was the day my life changed.

Can’t remember the day or month, or even the year, exactly.  It was either 1990 or 91, at the old Holiday Inn in downtown Worcester, MA and it was the very first time I ever saw Dan Holohan. He wasn’t Dan Holohan, not yet anyway.  He hadn’t written a book yet, or started writing for Plumbing & Mechanical magazine yet.  But the man opened up a whole new world for this struggling plumber, as well as a large function room filled with heating pro’s.  It was the day I first learned there was a reason why heating systems were installed they way they were, for the good and the bad.  Dan showed us why circulators are packaged on the return side of the boiler, and why placing them on the supply, pumping away (great name for a book, huh?) from something called the Point of No Pressure Change was a good idea. 

Whoever heard of such a thing? We also learned that Dan’s young daughters loved getting expansion tanks, wet rotor circulators and adjustable wrenches for Christmas.  Kids were easier to buy for back then.

In the 22 years since that day, it seems the plumbing, heating and cooling industry has embraced the notion of training.  Manufacturers, reps and wholesalers now realize the value of offering training opportunities to their customers.  An educated customer is a good customer.

Earlier this year Taco opened up a brand-spankin’ new Innovation & Development Center with a fancy-schmancy tiered classroom.  Manufacturers and Reps alike are investing all kinds of resources to provide training for their customers.  And all have a similar refrain:

Where did all the people go?

It’s been a consistent pattern over the past year or so.  No one, it would seem, can consistently get fannies in the seats.  We’ve had some success at Taco – 60 in Denver, 54 in Oakland last summer, 60+ in Toronto in October – but by and large there are empty seats, cancelled programs and lots of questions.

And no, I don’t believe we’ve trained all the people there are to train.  Not by a long shot.  I get that in an uncertain economy, taking time off for training can be a difficult commitment.  But, as an old boss of mine used to say, “don’t be too busy chopping wood that you don’t take the time to sharpen your axe”

So for this Mechanical-Hub blog, I want to pose some of those questions to you in hopes of getting some direction when it comes to training:

  1. What do you “want” from a training class?  Do you want product information or do you prefer to learn how to solve every day problems?
  2. What makes you want to attend a training class?  What turns you off?
  3. What makes you want to attend a program at a factory?
  4. What do you consider a fair “tuition” cost for a local training class?  For a factory training class?
  5. Are CEU’s important?
  6. Do you participate in online/webinar type programs?
  7. How do you find out about training opportunities? From wholesalers? Reps? Direct from manufacturers?
  8. Do you have an annual budget for training yourself and/or your employees? 
  9. Would travel prevent you from attending a factory program?  How far/long is too far, too long?
  10. What’s the ONE THING that would make you drop everything an attend a training class?

I’d love to hear what you have to say.  Please post your comments here.  You may also email me directly at

Thanks for reading and thanks for your feedback.

John Barba has been in the heating industry most of his life, growing up in his family’s plumbing and heating business outside of Boston. John’s practical experience includes everything from ditch digging and drain cleaning to boiler piping and PEX installing, as well as business management and contractor sales. Since 1995, John has trained over 13,000 contractors on the fine art and subtle science of hydronic heating design and installation through highly interactive, entertaining and informative seminars.

John is Contractor Training and Trade Program manager for Taco, Inc, the leading manufacturer of commercial and residential hydronic circulators, controls and accessories.

The views of this blogger do not necessarily reflect the views of Mechanical-Hub. Our goal is to bring news and information that is relevant to the industry. You are encouraged to continue the conversation by adding your comment below. As always, please be respectful of the author and their viewpoint of the subject at hand.

~Thank You, Mechanical-Hub


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