Originally published by Richard Mize,
It’s new and shiny and so cutting edge even young people are drawn to it, they say — just what manufacturers and technology service firms are counting on to supply a future workforce.
The Climate & Energy Control Technologies Center of Excellence is not only the latest pride and joy of Metro Technology Centers’ South Bryant Campus. It’s a darling of NC3, the National Coalition of Certification Centers.
“Today, Oklahoma City and Metro Tech now have the most advanced climate and energy control (training) facility in the world,” Roger Tadajewski, executive director of NC3, said Friday at the center’s grand opening at 4901 S Bryant Ave., Building C.
Curious about Industry 4.0? Wondering about “the internet of things to come”? Tadajewski assured a crowd of CareerTech educators, local dignitaries and local and global industry representatives: “You’re standing in it right now.”
Cool, new building
The center, six years in the making, is literally and technologically generations removed from its origins in 1965 as an auto collision repair training shop, said Bob Parrish, Metro Tech superintendent and CEO.
Some $3 million in remodeling by Smith & Pickel Construction Inc. to a design by Socrates Lazaridis, president and principal architect at Renaissance Architects, transformed the 19,000-square-foot building.
It is not a shop building. Art, and screens, are on the walls.
It’s now a state-of-the-art training center for high school students and adults seeking careers in designing, installing and maintaining residential and commercial plumbing, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems.
“Many of those units (on view at the center) are already communicating cooperatively through Industry 4.0,” Tadajewski said. “Some of this technology, if you go into the Thunder arena, or a high-rise building or a three-story building or whatever it might be, this is the technology that’s above the ceiling that you don’t get to see when you walk in. But it’s the comfort that you feel.”
It’s the smart and integrated technology behind climate control, he said, for example, a meeting room that can seat 1,000, but with only 50 people present; or a conference room with conditions controlled only when it’s being used.
“The systems know today how to manage that, so there’s not over air conditioning or overheating,” Tadajewski said.
The new center will help the climate and energy control industry lead technological advances to meet consumer demand, said Aaron Tanck, strategic accounts manager for Trane Inc., a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand.
Consumers’ view of comfort has changed, he said.
“As a world leader in air-conditioning equipment, controls and service, Trane no longer simply helps customers heat and cool their indoor spaces,” Tanck said. “We’re now tasked with providing innovative solutions that optimize indoor comfort and energy efficiency, while also increasing reliability and reducing costs.”
Job market is hot
The market for climate and energy control technologies is growing — $80 billion in 2015 with 5 percent projected growth through 2024 to $130 billion — just as boomers are retiring, he said.
Demand for trained and certified workers is projected at twice overall employment growth through 2022, leaving the industry with a shortage of 138,000 workers in four years, he said, citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Tanck said other industries face similar workforce challenges, which is why the Metro Tech center is so needed that it will automatically provide a benchmark for the development of other centers.
“You’re putting yourself in the forefront of career technical education in America,” he said.
Retrofitting the property and regearing it for climate and energy control tech was in collaboration with NC3, a coalition of industry- and education-backed centers for training and certifying workers.
NC3 started in 2007 as a partnership with Gateway Technical College and Snap-on Inc., both in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City. It now comprises 40 training centers, community colleges and industry training sites and will certify more than 100,000 trained workers this year.