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October 29, 2018

Brunswick energy technician training center expands

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
An increase in the need for trained professionals in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration field has prompted the expansion of the Maine Energy Marketers Technical Education Center on Greenwood Road in Brunswick.
Courtesy / MEMA
A $250,000 expansion of the Maine Energy Marketers center that doubles student capacity officially opened Friday.

An increase in the need for trained professionals in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration field has prompted the expansion of the Maine Energy Marketers Technical Education Center on Greenwood Road in Brunswick.

A $250,000 expansion to the center that doubles student capacity officially opened Friday.

The center, a nonprofit funded by members of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, first opened 10 years ago to help find solutions to workforce shortages in the industry.

"MEMA members decided to take workforce development matters into its own hands and create a program that produces qualified candidates," said Jamie Py, the association's president.

"These are good-paying jobs in communities all across the state. As we enter the winter season, it's important to our industry that when home or business owners need a technician, one is available," he said in a news release.

The group aims, through the additional capacity and expanded training environment, to develop a pipeline of high school graduates and veterans transitioning to civilian life, as well as provide an opportunity for technicians from other industries looking for a career change.

About 100 students a year graduate from the full HVAC Pro course, a 500-hour, three-and-a-half-month session, an accelerated time frame that allows students to qualify for Maine state licensing. An additional 200 train in courses at the center throughout the year. The school has a 95% placement rate, with most students finding employment before they graduate, according to MEMA.

The expansion includes an upgrade to the training lab at the center, including a separate modern hands-on propane training space. The expansion will also make it possible for the school to hire a second instructor in that field.

Mike Estes, owner of Estes Oil & Propane in York, said since the center was opened 10 years ago by the association its mission has become even more vital.

"Due to demand and modern equipment innovations, our industry stepped up again by building an addition to expand the program," he said. "The new area will support our best-in-class teaching professionals and unmatched hands-on training program for today's and tomorrow's HVAC technicians. We hire them, so it is essential that students have the best training."

Graduate Wayne Doyle, a service technician at Downeast Energy, said training at the center "really opens up a lot of doors."

Aside from the semester-long HVAC Pro course,completion of the six-week Oilheat Technician Training course eliminates six months of apprenticeship time required by the state for licensing. The program also provides students with nationally recognized propane and natural gas certification and EPA Air Conditioning Certification.

Other classes range from Plumbing 101 to A/C Refrigeration & Troubleshooting, to Propane and Natural Gas Appliance Install and Service and more.

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