Charlie Summers

On July 31, the Sun Journal published an opinion piece in which Tim Winkeler, president and CEO of VIP Tires & Service, urged people not to overlook vocational careers (“College isn’t for everyone. Vocational careers change lives, too.“).

I write today to echo and amplify Mr. Winkeler’s observations.

The Maine Energy Marketers Association (MEMA) and the MEMA Technical Education Center (MTEC) couldn’t agree more. Nearly all commercial and residential buildings — from hospitals, offices, and schools to museums, restaurants and shopping malls — need effective and affordable energy solutions in order to stay comfortable and remain cost effective to operate.

In Maine alone, oil and propane are used in more than 70% of homes and businesses. As a result, the HVAC-R (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) industry has grown 21% in the past three years — a number well above the national average for other trades.

MTEC is a nonprofit HVAC-R technical training facility certified by the Maine State Department of Education and supported by a network of more than 300 MEMA members throughout Maine. MTEC programs and operations are overseen by an all-volunteer Education Committee comprised of business owners and professionals currently working in the industry.

Today the need for well-trained technicians in HVAC-R has never been greater, and these jobs pay well and offer opportunities for advancement and life-long career development.


Currently, MTEC offers certifications and licensing preparation in oil heat, propane, natural gas, air conditioning, refrigeration and plumbing, with the HVAC-R class being the most popular and rewarding. The course is concentrated and features hands-on learning with no filler courses. In fact, MTEC’s intensive program model includes:

  • EPA certification for handling refrigerants
  • Propane licensure
  • 200-hour oil heat certificate

MTEC graduates also qualify for:

  • Reduced required apprenticeship time (from 2,000 to 1,000 hours)
  • Being prepared to pass the Maine state Journeyman oil burner exam

With summer nearing its end, students are preparing to return to school. For those who are juniors and seniors, the thoughts of life after graduation are on the horizon. Many students will choose to attend colleges and universities; however, some look for other options or may not know of all the options that are not the typical college path. There are in fact many different paths to success.

Tradesmen and women are vital roles to our economy and are essential to all Mainers. Nearly 400,000 households rely on fuel oil, kerosene or propane as their primary source of heat — households that rely on well-trained MTEC technicians to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

When it comes to choosing their future, young men and women must be made aware of all options before them. For those who seek a rewarding and well-paying career, MTEC welcomes them.

Charlie Summers is president and CEO of the Maine Energy Marketers Association.

Comments are no longer available on this story