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A high school in Baltimore County has introduced a one-of-a-kind program to its curriculum, becoming the only non-technical high school in Maryland to offer HVAC training to teenagers.
Hailey Brennan, a junior at Delaney High School, is now a certified air-conditioning technician — as well as a skilled carpenter, electrician, and HVAC contractor-in-the-making.
At 14 years old, she was like the majority of 21st century American teenagers.
“I didn’t even know how to use a power tool,” she said.
But now, Brennan has set herself up to make up to $70,000 a year by the time she’s 21 without even attending college.
She is one of 104 students enrolled in the program at her affluent Blue Ribbon School — a school that is ranked among the county’s finest for academics. While many schools in America’s more affluent areas typically overlook the importance of educating kids in these kinds of technical skills, Delaney High is working to change perceptions about the value of trade education.
The HVAC industry is a high-paying field that is expected to experience a major hiring boom over the next decade. Right now, it employs over 301,123 people in the United States. However, as more HVAC technicians reach retirement age, an industrywide shift is imminent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is projected to see an employment growth of 14% between now and 2024.
Yet it’s safe to say that most kids aren’t aware that HVAC filters need to be changed every one to three months, or that to calculate the minimize size exhaust fan required for a bathroom, you divide the volume of the room by five. Few teenagers know what HVAC even stands for.
More than a dozen Delaney students and alumni now work in the HVAC industry full-time, while dozens more have completed internships or gone on to pursue careers in similar fields. Many students report that the trade program has positively affected their self-esteem as well as their plans for the future.
“I can build a bookshelf or hook up an electrical system [now], and it’s like tying my shoe,” said Brennan, who intends to become a mechanical engineer. “It’s satisfying to be able to diagnose problems, develop a plan and carry the plan to completion.”