MARIETTA, Georgia.–Wrench Group, a national leader in home services, has long sought to solve the problem of the shortage of skilled workers in the United States. Now, Coolray, an Atlanta-area-based wrench company, has opened the doors to Coolray Academy, where students are paid to attend vocational training school.
Coolray Academy offers a accelerated path to a career as an approved specialist technician: students in the HVAC stream take part in a 14-month program and the plumber training is a 36-month stream. There are currently 18 students, ages 21 to 47, enrolled in the program’s inaugural class, and another 25 students are expected to join the second session later this spring.
Rather than trying to moonlight with other jobs, students are paid by Coolray to attend so they can focus on their training. In exchange, students agree to work for Coolray for a set period after graduation.
“An apprenticeship often takes a few years after initial training, and students often have to go into debt to do both,” said Alex Bedoya, vice president of plumbing at Coolray and dean of students at Coolray Academy. “It allows people to start their careers in the skilled trades in a much shorter timeframe, without debt, and so far they’ve been through it. They see it as an opportunity to change their lives and their way of life, because qualified technicians can earn $100,000 a year.
Beyond classroom learning, the centerpiece of Coolray Academy is a fully functional system, practical laboratory that the company has built in its factory. The lab includes four HVAC units, four water heaters, and other assistive devices, including bathroom fixtures and sinks, so students can learn their trades in a controlled environment. They also learn the fundamentals of customer service and professionalism that Coolray is known for.
“Coolray Academy is extremely exciting, and we will use it as a model to create similar programs at our other sites across the country,” said Ken Haines, CEO of Wrench Group. “From the workers’ point of view, it’s an innovative way to find and train more qualified technicians. From a business perspective, this will allow Coolray to continue to grow as it will help them add 20 new licensed plumbers over the next three years, enabling them to serve thousands more customers each year. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Coolray Academy is one of many examples of Wrench Group companies developing their own vocational training and education programs to address the national shortage of skilled technicians. In Arizona, Parker and sons‘ helped establish a new trade school in the area as well as an in-house training program. Morris Jenkins offers hands-on training in the Charlotte, NC area through its Tech Builder program. In Northern California, North Service Champions offers new recruits a seven-week paid training and life skills program called Champions University.
For more information about Coolray Academy, call (770) 421-8400 or visit https://www.coolray.com/academy.