College of DuPage HVACR students Devin Valle of Wheaton and Hamilton Greenwood of Naperville took first and second place, respectively, in the fourth annual Vocational/Junior College HVACR competition hosted by the Chicago Pipe Fitters Local Union 597. COD students have placed in the top three at the competition in three out of the last four years.
Open to vocational, private and junior/community college HVACR students, the contest included a general HVACR industry knowledge test, a wiring project and a basic practical piping/soldering test. The top three students were awarded cash prizes, received plaques and will have their names added to the Local Union 597 perpetual plaque.
"It feels great to have won," said Valle. "I set high goals and expectations for myself and achieving those gives me great satisfaction and a big confidence boost. Once the competition began and the initial nerves settled, I was able to stay detailed-oriented. This allowed me to make very few mistakes and ultimately take first place."
Valle earned an associate degree in graphic design before joining the HVACR program at College of DuPage in the fall of 2016. He is pursuing a Facility Maintenance Mechanic Associate in Applied Science degree and hopes to complete the program by summer 2018. Since joining the program, he has become a student lab tech and worked as a mechanical contractor for the Addison school district.
Valle said he plans to keep his options open and gain as much knowledge as possible in a variety of disciplines. While he's undecided about a specific job, he would like to work in a position that includes a building automation and controls element for a company that supports continued learning and skill development across a range of subjects in the field.
Valle said he was pleased with his experiences in the HVACR program at College of DuPage.
"I would not have been able to even complete the tasks let alone compete to win without COD and its excellent staff," he said "They provide a hands-on approach and continue to grow the lab, teaching with the modern technologies that are evolving in the HVACR industry. The instructors do a great job of breaking the information down while still explaining it thoroughly."
Greenwood said he was thrilled with his performance during the competition.
"I competed last year after only eight weeks into the HVACR program at COD but did horribly because I was a rookie just starting to learn and didn't have a solid foundation yet," he said. "Placing second this year was great. I was somewhat familiar with the expectations, but now I had an extra year of experience and a job that has helped to solidify my skill set."
Before coming to College of DuPage, Greenwood attended Western Illinois University to study law enforcement but later discovered the career wasn't for him. After working briefly as a 911 dispatcher, he began at a Culver's restaurant where he was promoted to manager and put in charge of maintenance, an experience that later motivated him to look into HVACR as a career. Joining the HVACR program at COD, Greenwood left his position at Culver's and was hired at Planz Heating & Air Conditioning in Villa Park, where he plans to stay after completing the Facility Maintenance Mechanic A.A.S. degree in 2018.
Greenwood said competitions are important and helpful to students in a variety of ways.
"It's great to have experiences like this," he said. "First, if you want to apply to the union, you can get your foot in the door and have a chance to network with peers as well as potential coworkers and employers. Second, and more important, is that you can use it as an opportunity to measure your skills. Having a way to test your skills, learn new techniques and break out of your comfort zone helps you grow into a better employee, technician and peer, all to your benefit and that of your customers."
Greenwood credits COD, particularly its instructors, for providing him with the skills and knowledge to succeed in his new career.
"Bob Clark and the other instructors mention that they wanted to create a program that would teach the information they wished had been taught when they first started their careers," he said. "I think they've done a remarkable job of it."
The HVACR program at College of DuPage provides students with the theory of refrigeration, air conditioning and heating, electrical circuitry, control equipment, and system design, as well as hands-on experience a state-of-the-art lab on cutting-edge equipment. Students can choose from a variety of certificates, including Energy and Analysis, Service Technician and Stationary Operator, as well as associate degrees such as Contractor, Service Technician and Facility Maintenance Mechanic.
Click here for more information about the HVACR program at College of DuPage