Our state motto in
Michigan is, If you seek a beautiful peninsula, look about you.
Far to the
west in the northern suburbs of Seattle lies a small town Id like to coin a new
motto for: If you seek an award-winning hvacr instructor, look very hard about
You see, the B.R. Engelking Co., Inc., Hvac Training School is very hard to see. It is
about as nondescript as you can imagine. Nestled behind a residential home in an
inconspicuous part of this appealing small town is a school that has graduated 3,500 hvacr
students in the past 11 years.
If you drove by it you might not know it was there, especially at night. A small, unlit
sign tells the curious what lies 200 feet from the road a training school in a
former garage. If you visit with anything larger than a car, please park it two blocks
down at the local church. The city doesnt want a lot of traffic and large trucks
taking up space in the driveway of the school.
At least thats what school owner and instructor Ben Engelking (he goes by the
title of Head Master) tells the new students in his Gas Training class on this
mid-September evening. Hed prefer that some of his 21 students (a full class) walk a
little more than others if they enjoy the trucking lifestyle. There is little objection
from his students. They know better.
Engelking is something of a legend in the Seattle hvacr community. There are waiting
lists to get into his classes. Tonight, students in his Gas Class have been
sent by local contractors to brush up on their skills; area plumbers are here to expand
their knowledge and, hopefully, move into hvacr service; older men looking for a change of
careers or to brush up on their knowledge are also here.
Some students apologize for being late but Engelking understands for the moment.
If one misses too much of his lecture, they are bound to miss a lot. Thats because
Engelking does very little lecturing. He asks his students questions, they dont ask
him. In fact, he doesnt allow questions (rule No. 1). He wants students to figure
out their own questions and arrive at their own answers.
On this Monday night, he asked me to turn out the lights while he demonstrated the
simplicity of an open gas flame. He told his students the flame was all he had to warm a
home, and it was time for them to design a system to keep residents comfortable. After
some fun and good-natured joking, the students eventually constructed a heating system
from the simple flame Engelking demonstrated.
Im not sure Engelking would want me to go into too much more detail about his
class. After all, I was taking notes and his students were not allowed to (thats
rule No. 2).
But I will say this much about the man: He packs in students every year and sends them
away with a thorough knowledge of the course subjects. People wait for a year to benefit
from his knowledge and the Discovery Approach to Learning.
I call it a system that our trade should embody and exemplify.
Congratulations, Ben, on being selected as The News Best Hvacr Instructor of the
Year for 2000. You set an example that I hope others will adopt and that our trade will
And if you think Ben would like to tell you a little bit about his method, drop him a
line. If hes got a moment between teaching and tending to his backyard full of bees
(hes also a beekeeper), hell probably give you a tip or two.
Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-6417; 248-362-0317
(fax); firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).