Trane’s Graduate Training Program (GTP) is a shared experience for many people throughout the company. Even those who graduated from different co-horts bond in the program, often sharing their group number: “I graduated from ’98-2.” It’s a badge they wear with pride.
“For some, it’s a lifelong relationship,” said GTP Training Manager Sara Haar. “Years later, former students visit each other, sometimes on different continents. People have been married who met in GTP. They get really tight in a relatively short period.”
That experience also pays professional dividends. GTP provides a solid knowledge base, but that’s just a first step. Long after the graduation ceremony, GTP colleagues continue to share knowledge and experiences to help each other out.
“As they run into project challenges, they can reach out to this network of people across the planet that are in the same boat,” said GTP Training Manager Rob Johnson. “That networking piece is a huge deal.”
Looking Back on GTP
GTP has been a major part of Trane’s success, providing 20 weeks of HVAC education, to two co-horts of employees each year, for decades. The training team includes 75 subject matter experts and a deep bench of experienced instructors. Johnson and colleagues Tony Lee, Wane Baker and Mike Zwick each have more than 30 years in the industry. Haar and Erin Smith – Manager of the Energy Engineering and Construction Project Management GTP programs, round out the team, bringing their expertise in learning and development.
These experts help oversee an intensive, sometimes scary, training experience. New Systems Sales Engineer Mike Warmbold (Cohort ‘13-1) works in Charlotte, North Carolina, and would not trade his GTP experience for anything. On the other hand, he probably would not want to repeat it.
“I like to summarize it as a fantastic experience I never want to do again,” said Warmbold. “It’s enjoyable, but it’s hard.”
Sales Engineer Claudia Hurt (Cohort ‘19-2) also remembers a challenging experience. Hurt felt a slight disadvantage on the technical knowledge when she began the 20-week program. She majored in industrial engineering, and though she had taken some mechanical classes, she needed more background on thermodynamics and a few other topics.
“It was intimidating at first, but it was a great bridge between exiting college and starting my career,” said Hurt. “Definitely hard at times, but you’re around a really supportive community that wants to see you succeed.”
Warmbold echoes that sentiment. “You lean on each other for help. The GTP culture really drives you to do it. I think if you had to do it alone, nobody would finish.”
During the all-day classes, students work in teams to solve problems, role-play challenging scenarios, and answer technical questions on the fly. The goal is to make them a little uncomfortable and develop the necessary skills to navigate that discomfort.
“Before I went to GTP, if I didn’t recognize an incoming phone number, I’d be hesitant to answer it,” said Hurt. “Now, I’m talking to someone new every day.”
The program also integrates a heavy emphasis on business skills – something many students don’t learn about in college.
“If you go into engineering, you’re going to have to understand budgets, cost analysis, and how money works,” said Warmbold. “At some point, you’re going to be spending somebody’s money or asking for money. From the professional development aspect, that’s a huge part.”
For both engineers, GTP was an opportunity to take the theory they learned in college and apply it to real-world problems. Even more importantly, that baseline knowledge and experience continue to impact their work. In the last year, Hurt was having a discussion about fan curves – complex datasets she first learned about at GTP. The client was impressed by her in-depth knowledge and that helped develop the relationship.
The Long Tail of GTP
One of GTP’s major goals is growing community. As graduates move into their offices around the world, they maintain those connections and often swap stories, tips, and technical information.
“We are all in a similar place in life, and it’s a unique opportunity to share successes and struggles,” said Warmbold. “That’s especially true when you’re brand new because you’re so afraid of what you don’t know. But you’re never worried about asking one of your GTP classmates something you think may sound stupid.”
The knowledge, relationships, and ability to thrive in diverse situations give GTP graduates a great basis for success. The ultimate reward is building and maintaining long-term relationships with clients.
“The best relationships I’ve built with people were on the really challenging jobs,” said Warmbold. “A lot of that comes from the sales training; I just know how to interact with people That, combined with the technical competence to troubleshoot problems, helps me build relationships and succeed.”
Since its inception, GTP has graduated more than 8,000 professionals, giving them a great running start on their HVAC careers. “I couldn't imagine a better preparation,” said Warmbold. “The thing that impressed me most was the investment Trane made in my education through 20 weeks of training. That would have taken years to learn on the job.”