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Empowering HVAC Education:

Northeast Community College's Transformational Journey

April 01, 2022

Project Highlights

Location: Norfolk, Nebraska

Industry: Higher Education

Products Used: Chillers, Air Handling, Controls, Split Systems,

Services Used: Upgrading,

Climate: Dry & Hot

Topic: Innovation,

Image of HVAC lab with multiple pieces of equipment


With its HVAC lab housed in a dark basement with dated equipment, Northeast Community College was challenged to recruit students for its HVAC program, and its capable instructors had di culty educating at the higher level demanded by students and the industry. To enable its graduates to take advantage of opportunities that exist within the industry’s aging workforce, Northeast sought to upgrade its program with a new Applied Technology building that would feature a state-of-the-art HVAC teaching lab. “Our facility was less than adequate,” said Lyle Kathol, dean of Applied Technology Division. “We had an extreme need for technology in order to develop a trained workforce. While we previously focused on residential HVAC, we wanted to expand our program to also include commercial HVAC.”


After discussing the school’s needs with peers at another  college, Northeast joined the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), a network of colleges and industry leaders that develops, implements and sustains industry-recognized certifi cations. The mission of the non-profi t organization is to meet industry workforce needs, while training the next generation of skilled workers for productive careers. Northeast obtained input from other NC3 colleges and conducted best practice visits to their labs. Based on peer recommendations, and Trane's track record of helping to improve student education through its collaboration with NC3 in the Career and  Technical Education/Workforce Training Program, Northeast engaged Trane as its strategic partner for the upgrade project.

Providing project coordination and oversight Trane began by organizing a meeting with all project stakeholders, including Northeast administrators, faculty and staff and local employers, to get familiar with the college, and discuss its curriculum, certifi cation programs, the new HVAC lab configuration and next steps. As the new Applied Technology project got underway, Trane partnered with the college to provide project oversite and coordinated activities with subcontractors.

Developing a relevant curriculum withhands-on learning
An industry relevant curriculum, facilitated by NC3, takes Northeast Community College students from basic knowledge to a high level of expertise upon earning their Associate Degree, and enables them to gain industry certifications. To support the theoretical classroom instruction, the HVAC program's lab includes a variety of Trane equipment and controls used to apply their new knowledge, including air handling units, water-source heat pumps, variable air volume (VAV) terminal units, parallel fan and series fan powered VAVs, rooftop units, variable frequency drives, and Tracer™ SC building automation systems.

Providing training for the trainers
Trane contributes to a weeklong NC3 Train-the-Trainer program, which provides Northeast instructors with a working knowledge of the new technologies to better equip them to teach their students. The training includes all aspects of the HVAC, controls and building automation systems.


As a member of NC3, Northeast now has access to a broader network of industry leaders and educators to assist the college in its endeavors to help students achieve their educational  goals and provide programs to develop the region’s future workforce. Working in collaboration, Northeast, Trane and  NC3 are rebranding the image and acceptance of vocational schools. The team has revamped Northeast’s HVAC program with a new curriculum and the construction of a state-of-theart training lab. With the new curriculum and lab, Northeast  students have a better learning environment to earn industry recognized certifications and gain the skills needed to advance their careers in the competitive workplace. The new lab is helping the school recruit new students, and also provides the school's faculty with equipment and resources that better match their teaching abilities.

“We have twenty-four very excited freshmen and another fourteen sophomores enjoying and utilizing the new lab to  learn," said Dean Kathol. “The program we offer has received national recognition and is helping to create a pool of qualified workers. Our community has also seen the benefi ts of the new lab, as indicated by their generous financial support.  However, our program would not be as successful without our experienced faculty and staff. They aren’t content to sit back and do the same thing they've done for twenty years. They're revising curriculums to include the state-of-the-art training lab and doing additional training on their own to ensure they
effectively teach the new technologies."