Oct 7, 2023
Daily Inter Lake

Grant Funding Assists Expansion of College’s HVAC Program

Flathead Valley Community College received a Montana’s Future at Work grant in partnership with local area schools and businesses to help students find success in the Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration industry.

Thanks to the grant funding, FVCC’s existing HVAC program has expanded to include an HVAC Career Credential for high school juniors and seniors in the Running Start program. The credential can be completed within six months and requires two classes as well as an optional pre-apprenticeship.

“We developed the HVAC Career Credential in collaboration with local industry experts to ensure students gain specific, industry-recognized skills that are in demand,” said FVCC Executive Director of Workforce Development Lisa Blank. “The idea of a career credential is for students to have the opportunity to take one class or a small group of FVCC classes to position them to move directly and quickly into a career.”

FVCC collaborated with the Kalispell School District, Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, Kalispell Job Services and local businesses to obtain the grant from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education which totals just under $40,000. With education opportunities and local partnerships, students can position themselves throughout their education for in-demand careers like HVAC technicians, refrigeration specialists or facility maintenance technicians.

The new HVAC courses are offered through FVCC’s Running Start program, which allows high school juniors and seniors to take college courses while still in high school. The first six credits are free to all Montana students and any further courses are offered at discounted tuition.

After completing the courses, students can go on to a pre-apprenticeship with local companies. This not only provides an introduction for students to potential employers, but it also begins to address the need for a trained workforce with hands-on experience.

“Kalispell was recently identified as the fastest growing micropolitan area in the US, which comes with rapid housing and business development. This all requires significant HVAC design, installation and service needs,” explains Blank.

The industry is lucrative and expected to grow. There are 212 HVAC technicians currently employed in Flathead County and 1,830 in the state with an average starting salary of $48,830 and a top salary of $90,109 in the Flathead, according to Modern Campus.

Recent FVCC HVAC Certificate of Technical Studies graduate and certified HVAC apprentice Charles Case says the hands-on, career focus of his FVCC classes were integral to his success.

“I was comfortable that I could get a job and be successful. I could apply what I was learning on the job. The advantage was immeasurable. It gave me a huge leg up,” said Case.

To learn more about FVCC’s HVAC program and HVAC Career Credential, visit