LYNN HAVEN — The Tom P. Haney Technical Center held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon to celebrate its updated HVAC/R lab and classroom.
The total costs for the HVAC/R renovation/equipment upgrades were just under $1 million, with $800,000 from Triumph Gulf Coast funds and about $58,000 from Bay District Schools.
The updates are meant to help the heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration program students prepare for the workforce and get proper training with new equipment. The space has served as an HVAC/R lab since 1980, so the equipment and rooms critically needed updating, said Ann Leonard, director of the center.
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“It’s just terrific, the lab was original to the building, so it was over 40 years old,” Leonard said. “The renovation has been amazing, it’s given us more space, it’s given us great light. It’s given us great opportunity to purchase new equipment for our students to work on.”
Leonard said while working at Haney every day, she was constantly sneaking peeks of the updates as they were happening and getting more excited.
“To have it all come together is a really good feeling,” Leonard said. “I feel like it’s a really great thing for our school and overall, a really great thing for our community.”
The updates also were done to help bring in and support more students in the programs. Haney has seen a rise in people wanting to train for HVAC/R careers since Hurricane Michael and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has been a good thing and a bad thing,” Leonard said. “Early on, we had to limit our enrollment due to numbers we could have in school, but it has given people a chance to think that maybe there’s something else they’d like to do in terms of a career.”
For HVAC/R program student Dominique Jackson, she said working with this new equipment will give her the opportunity to be more prepared once she joins the workforce.
“The opportunity to be able to do that is good,” Jackson said. “Just to work on different types of units, so you can be more prepared for when you go out and the things you’re going to see.”
Aaron Kake, HVAC/R program student and retired U.S. Air Force, said it is awesome to see the community come together and support its programs.
“I think this is a vital career field, (air conditioning) is vital to every person who lives in the South, otherwise it would be uninhabitable,” Kake said. “And to be supported by such a great establishment and the community, the ambassadors of all these companies, that shows us it is a tight knit group of people, and we like that.”
Kake said he advocates for learning a trade and learning how valuable these skills are.
“Having a trade is something you’ll never lose and there’s always employment,” Kake said.
For anyone who is considering joining one of the HVAC/R programs but is not sure, Jackson said to not hold back and go for it.
“For new people coming in, it doesn’t matter what age you are,” Jackson said. “If you have the opportunity, take it. And then just get really involved when you’re here because the more involved you are, the more you’ll learn.”