Losing a job opens door to rewarding new career path

07.20.2015 | By Rob Vanya

San Jacinto College student Isaias Tristan (right) found new direction and a rewarding career path in the College’s Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration program. Providing guidance is San Jacinto College HVACR instructor Ben Ficklin. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.


San Jacinto College student prepares to launch air conditioning business


Changing careers can be difficult and trying, but Isaias Tristan, who unexpectedly lost his job with a computer company, found new direction and a rewarding career path, thanks to San Jacinto College’s Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) program.

The 41-year-old North Shore resident did not intentionally choose HVACR as a career path. “Actually, HVACR sort of chose me,” he commented. “I had been working for Compaq computer company for 10 years and liked my job, but was laid off due to downsizing. I am a U.S. Navy veteran, so I went to the Veterans Affairs office and they lined me out in this path, and here I am.”

He says that losing his computer job due to downsizing turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “There is so much more to HVACR work than I had imagined,” Tristan commented. “It involves keeping up with new technology and I am continually learning new things. I am really excited about this new career path.”

Tristan plans to earn an air conditioning certificate of technology from San Jacinto College in December 2015, and an associate degree in air conditioning technology one year later. His career goal is to own his own residential air conditioning business. “My plan,” he says, “is to be a respected HVACR technician – dependable, knowledgeable, fair, and honest.”

Tristan is a realist and understands that, like many careers, HVACR work has downsides as well as upsides. “I do not really like handling old insulation, nor crawling around in an attic,” he commented. “But you learn to outsmart those obstacles by wearing long sleeves and good knee pads, and making use of good fans for ventilation. You remind yourself of the excellent pay and job security. I think about my wife and three sons. I think about my dad, who always wanted me to have a business. He passed away last year and he is my motivation, along with my family. So, by far the good in HVACR work outweighs the bad.”

Tristan says the training he is receiving at San Jacinto College is invaluable as a means to fulfilling his dream of starting his own air conditioning business. “The classroom, book-learning part of this business is very important, and I really like that part of it,” he remarked. “But I am also a hands-on person by nature, and I need to hook up the gauges on my own, change out that capacitor on my own so it can click in my head, and then I will be like, ‘OK, that makes sense.’ The program at San Jacinto College includes classroom work, as well as lab projects. There are instructors to help us understand and correct our mistakes. We learn through experience.”

Ben Ficklin, San Jacinto College HVACR instructor, says HVACR is an ideal choice for people like Tristan who face making a career change. “The Houston area is considered the most air conditioned city in the nation, so the work provides job security because demand for HVACR technicians is always high,” he said. “It’s also one of the few skilled craft trades wherein a person can begin working entry level with only one semester of college training. More college equates to higher earning potential. Another strong selling point for the business is that many of our graduates become independent contractors, which means they are their own boss.”

According to the Texas Workforce Commission Texas CARES website, the job growth potential for HVACR technicians and installers in the greater Houston area is above average. The average income of  HVACR technicians and installers in the region for 2013 (the latest available figures) was $20.87 per hour. Ficklin said that experienced HVACR technicians and installers can make at least $100,000 a year, especially those who are self employed.

San Jacinto College offers a wide range of HVACR courses and degree options at the North and South campuses. For more information, please visit sanjac.edu/career/air-conditioning-technology.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.