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We are facing a shortage of 20,000+ BAS Professionals. Our current methods of workforce development are not keeping pace with the need for talented BAS professionals. 

In this episode of the Smart Buildings Academy Podcast we layout a step-by-step plan to develop BAS technicians that can work independently in less than 180 days.

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Phil Zito 0:00
This is the smart buildings Academy podcast with Phil Zito Episode 236. Hey folks, Phil Zito here and welcome to Episode 236 and in this episode we are going to be discussing developing BLS technicians from scratch in less than 180 days. This podcast is going to be sponsored by our VA s technician path. If you are looking for the fastest way to train up completely online as a VA s technician, then I encourage you to check out our VA s technician path. You can find out more about that. At podcasts, smart buildings Academy comm forward slash 236 RBA s technician path is a completely online path that will teach you everything you need to know to go from knowing nothing about building automation to going out and performing Point to Point checkout controller startup, functional test, etc. So in this podcast, we are going to look at what is a building automation technician? We're going to talk about what they do, we're going to look at how have we developed technicians in the past? How long has it taken in the past and why that approach is no longer applicable. And my hope is that by the end of this podcast, you will agree with me or at least you'll consider a different way of developing your technicians. I mean, I would love it if you would use our training services. But you can do this without us. It's just you're going to have to prepare a bunch of stuff in the background that we already have ready. Alright, we're also going to go through what does the technician really need to know we're going to talk through key aptitudes and we're going to look at some key skills. Alright, so what is a building automation technician, I was on the controls and building automation Facebook group, which I like to go on there, it's got now about 4000 people in there. And I like to go on there and pose questions just to get dialogue going so that I stay kind of connected to where the industry is at, I get a lot of feedback from our students. I mean, we're almost at 8000 students now. But at the same time, I like to get feedback from people who aren't our students. And what I heard was a just complete mixed bag, some of the stuff I was thinking to myself, really, you think a technician should do that. And so I think what we really as an industry need to do first and the OEMs have this figured out a lot of the OEMs and a lot of our larger system integrator and contract customers have this figured out as well. And it is what exactly does a BA s technician do. You see when you're below roughly $5 million in revenue, your ba s technicians tend to do everything. And so you would get that mixed bag answer of well, the technician needs to be able to do mechanical startup, they need to be able to go and work with all sorts of starters. And they need to be able to add fans like add the motors and they need to be able to do cybersecurity setup and all these things. I'm thinking to myself. Okay, but is that the most applicable skills that people are going to use the majority of the time? Sure, Are there times to do certificates? Yes. Are there times when you need to understand how motors work so that you can troubleshoot things? Of course, but is that the majority of the time? And that's what I challenge folks on is what skills are you utilizing the majority of the time. And if you start to think about it from that perspective, I think we can get a pretty good list of skills. And as I look at it, there's really five skills that if I can get a BS technician, to be good with these five skills, I can put them on almost any project. And they will be able to go on to that project and contribute independent of a senior technician. As the last thing I ever want. As someone who used to run a p&l is someone who's very profit minded. The last thing I ever want is a expensive senior or lead technician babysitting someone who's making, you know, half to a quarter of that person's salary that is just not profitable. It's not efficient. And in my opinion, it's a holdover of, kind of,

to use a Star Wars phrase, a bygone era of when we used to have a very kind of, you're going to be under the mentor. You're going to do OJT you're going to slowly work up Model an apprenticeship model, which our cost structures and our operational structures don't necessarily support that as well now, so the five skills I see people needing to know how to do are downloading programs to a controller, like how do you go and download programs to controller? How do you do Point to Point check out? How do you do adding controllers to a database? And how do you go and do functional test? And how do you do front end setup as we get later into the podcast, I'll dive deep into each one of these, because there's a series of sub skills like obviously, in order to download programs to the controller, you need to know how to address the controller, you need to know how to power the controller, you need to understand how calm trunks work. I'm assuming, though through most of this, that you're using electrical installers. Most of the large companies that I deal with that we deal with at smart buildings Academy are using electrical installers and the technician is acting as an oversight validating the work of the electrical installers. Sure, there are plenty of companies that do their own install. But I noticed as people try, as businesses try to get past that $10 million revenue mark, it becomes increasingly difficult to have in house installation. That just is a challenge. I'm not saying because I will inevitably get emails saying we do in house installation, and we're a $30 million a year revenue business. Yes, there are people who do in house installation, I don't disagree. I've done in house installation. Even when I was with Johnson Controls, which is a massive company, we had electrical installers. But we didn't use them on the larger projects, we use them on the more quick hit projects because there becomes a point of diminishing returns. And there's this thing called risk shifting, which basically, once you get a subcontractor under contract, and they assume the risk associated with what they scope out and what they quote. And so if they miss something, if they miss estimate their hours, you're not liable to absorb that cost that is on them. Alright, so let's pull back How have we developed technicians in the past? You know, I remember when I started in this field, many many decades go. And I remember sitting alongside Gosh, I for the life of me, I can't remember his name. And I'd love to give him credit because he was a brilliant guy. But I worked with this one guy and he made me no no BS, he made me go and get a control stencil. And actually draw out my programs on paper with a control stencil, I had to draw out the logic blocks, he made me go and like hand draw everything because his philosophy was that my hand touching the pencil and touching the paper did something to go and internalize knowledge. Granted, I was kind of in that Omnibus technician role that a lot of companies that are smaller have which is when I was doing programming, I was doing central plant commissioning everything. And this is like straight out of the Navy. So in complete transparency, I had no right doing that. But for whatever reason I got hired to do that and kind of got thrown in sink or swim. So in the past, that's typically what we would do, we would bring people on board, we would mainly target either electrical are h fac backgrounds, which isn't bad. I would say it's becoming less critical that someone has an H fac background. I know that's gonna offend a lot of people. But try to disassociate yourself with your own h fac background. And realize that where we have shifted as an industry is largely towards low

voltage and technology. There still is an importance of hv AC, especially if you're like a mechanical firm that does controls. However, it is not the most critical. So how have we developed technicians in the past? Well, we went about developing technicians by going and taking someone on board, usually as an installer. And then we would do OJT and just have them work their way up over three to four year periods. And that's why you see and I saw in a lot of the responses from people who were touting, hey, I've done 20 years in the industry. I've done 30 years in the industry. And it takes three to five years and I would absolutely agree the training methodologies and the approach and the importance of Workforce Development just didn't really exist or wasn't as in focus. And we have a lot more training modality is now in a modality is basically just an approach to training right. We have a lot more training modalities at our disposal now and what What I've learned is rather than the typical kind of waterfall method, if you think about like software development, there's methods, there's waterfall, there's agile, there's rapid development, etc. We used to follow what would be considered a waterfall method with phase gates, right? So a technician would become an installer, they would do install for six months, they would carry around parts, they would have to go through these phase gates. And we weren't necessarily focusing on the key skills that were most important because for a couple reasons, one, the people who are often onboarding and putting these people through OJT are not trainers, they're not workforce development. They are technicians who, or leaders who just happen to get put into the role of workforce development. I mean, let's be honest, let's be really, really honest with one another. For those of you who develop your own texts, how many books have you read on how people learn? How many books have you read on how to get people to absorb knowledge? How many books have you read, when's the last time you listened to a podcast on training adult learners or developing people? I mean, really be honest with one another, I'll tell you like, I literally have 20 plus books sitting on the floor in my office about that exact topic. And I'm reading that every single day. Because all we do here at smart buildings Academy's training, I'm not trying to turn this into an infomercial. But there's no way you can do that. I'm sorry. But if you try to do that, you will not run your business properly. And it will impact your bottom line. I mean, you've got forecasting scheduling for log backlog, you've got being on the job site for job meetings, you've got answering the text calls, because they can't figure out how to do a back net interface, even though you've taught them that 14 frickin times and they're still calling you asking you how to do it. You know, I Well, I know the world you're in because I used to live in it. So the reality is, those of us who are tasked in the workforce with training the workforce are not prepared to train and develop workforce efficiently. So how do we do it? Well, like I mentioned, we go and we use OJT. We have them carry around parts, we have them shadow attack, hopefully that Tech has the ability to train. Some companies have a criteria as to what makes a technician level one, level two, level three, and they check that off, and they follow that format. By the way, if that's something you're interested in, reach out to us in the comments section, wherever you're listening to this podcast, let us know we have a checklist for level one, level two, level three technicians that you can utilize to help develop your text. Be glad to get that to you. That being said, a lot of companies don't have that. And even some of the large OEMs that do have it if we're being honest, they have it but they don't utilize it because it's another process. So this results in

an honest three to five years to get someone trained on something that I would argue takes 180 days or less. So why does it take so long? It takes so long because there's no feedback loop. There's no evaluation of the skills in most cases, and there's no structure to skill development. As we get later into the podcast, I'm going to give you a clear structure, that whether you're trying to enter the field, or whether you're someone who goes and develops people in the field, you can use this structure, you can use this methodology and apply it and you can train and develop your people. So what do they really need to know the first thing I focus on with anyone are aptitudes, personalities and skills. So I've had people who honestly I've written off, I've had them come in and I was like, holy crap, this person is not gonna make it. I look at some of the questions. I mean, this is bad. I feel bad admitting this, but I'm just being real. I look at some of the questions they ask. And I'm like, Man, this person is not gonna make it. They do not get it. But they have the drive. I look at how often they're logging in. I look at the questions they're asking. They're showing up to every office hours there. They're asking all these different questions. And I'm like, Man, this person they may it may not be something that comes naturally to them. But they're working through it. And there's story after story after story of people in professional sports and people in business, who maybe didn't have the natural aptitude but they had the work ethic and desire to develop. And so where I will challenge you is that if and it's very difficult to measure work ethic and drive, but there's a couple of key things that point out to me on work ethic and drive. You know, often what I like to do back when I was hiring technicians is I would, as part of an interview, I would give them a question something that they would have to go home and do. HR didn't know about this at the time, because they would have been very unhappy, because it's probably not something that was aligned with our hiring policy. But I did it anyways, I would give them an exercise, usually a research exercise, and I would see who actually did it, and only about 20% of the people would do it. And of that 20% 50% would actually do it. Well, I would get, you know, a report, that would explain to me what they researched how they researched it, how they learned it, sometimes it was related to VA s, sometimes it wasn't. But what that showed me is personal drive and initiative, and the ability to think and the ability to research topics that wasn't related to what they knew. And and that showed just a curiosity and a drive to learn. That's something that I realized your culture may not let you and your processes may not let you do but it's something I like to test for is drive, then we have aptitude, aptitude is just the ability to understand certain concepts and to have systems thinking and to be mechanically inclined. There are so many so many just tests that you can find online, either paid or free, that test mechanical aptitude, I, I beg you do not try to create this on your own. There are so many resources for mechanical aptitude, it aptitude systems aptitude, all sorts of aptitude tests, I forget the one software we looked at, that had 1000 plus aptitude tests, and it was relatively inexpensive. And you could run people through these aptitude tests. And you can figure out real quickly if they're inclined. Now, you may be wondering why my hammering, aptitude and drive and all things, because we've heard from our customers continuously. And it's why we're actually working on a workforce development solution. Right now, we're looking to roll that out in q2, but of 2021. By the way, if you're listening to this in the future, it should already be rolled out. That being said, one of the key complaints we're getting for people is that they are spending a ton on technicians who are quote unquote, experienced just to realize they're not experienced, they don't know what they're doing. So oftentimes, our methodology, or the approach in the solution to solving this workforce development issue, is going to be going in developing new talent from scratch, you eliminate bad habits, you get to go and develop people who are affordable. You know, you're not paying $80,000 a year for someone just because they have a niagra cert, but they can't even log into the chase because they just kind of pass the niagra certification by luck, and haven't used that training sense.

So let's talk about some key skills. key skills I tried to focus in on are the three ish pillars and I say three ish, because they are more than three, but kinda less than three. So the three ish pillars that I like to focus on for when I'm developing people, the key skills I want to develop in people, I want to develop the BA s pillar, I want to develop the HVC pillar, and I want to develop the it low voltage pillar. So that's kind of a third pillar. Now, when I say hv, AC, when I say ba is when I say it low voltage.

What I need you to understand is generalist knowledge, concepts and theories, you need to understand that, I will tell you, there are so many people, so many people who I talked to, who could probably run circles around me in their product knowledge. But yet they don't understand truly how a pod loop works, how the math works, how the inner relationships work, they don't understand truly how address resolution protocol works and how subnets work and how routing works. They don't truly understand what hv AC sequencing is sure they can go install a fan. I've never installed a fan in my life. They could go install one, they can go and actually pipe up a coil. But do they really understand how heat transfer works? Do they understand sensible and latent loads? Do they understand psychometrics? Do they understand the reason why we use certain sequences and why we don't I would much rather have someone who doesn't understand how to install a fan doesn't understand how to pipe a coil but understands ASHRAE 62.1 understands 55 That's ASHRAE 55 understands the impact of thermal comfort and the variables understands air changes, understands delta t and phase changes that enable us to transfer B to us or state changes. Rather, I would want people who get that, because that is going to really be what makes the difference. Going and understanding how to wire up a motor starter is important. But it's something that can be easily learned off YouTube, it's something that can be easily taught, understanding the core knowledge and core concepts. It's deeper theory. And it's something that is more difficult to learn. Alright, so what I will do whenever I train someone that we're going to get very tactical, this is where you're going to want to start writing stuff down. So first thing I'm going to do whenever I train someone is I'm going to go and if you're looking for a curriculum, like I said, Our VA s technician, curriculum covers this. But if you go even just look at our courses, you can kind of figure out what we teach. Like, if you go and look at our building automation fundamentals, you can get a real quick idea of what I believe a BS technician from a fundamental perspective needs to understand. We go through what our controller hardware, what our i o what our networks, what our protocols, what are the different control modes, what are the basics of electricity, things like that. That's what you need to get people up to speed, the underlying theory this at this point, you're avoiding product specific. And to get people up to speed on this core underlying knowledge is going to be about four weeks. Yes, I know. I said four weeks, and those of you are doing math, and you're saying 20 bucks an hour times 40 hours a week, right. And so you're starting to calculate this up and you're starting to look at your cost. And I encourage you to do that. But I also encourage you to think about what is the slippage you're currently having on projects from people who don't know what they're doing. What currently is the cost impact of hiring people, both in recruiter fees, as well as increased salaries, who maybe are misrepresenting themselves or cannot properly execute work? And does that cost justify the pre training? I will tell you many of our customers like sunbelt, like el barrio energy train technologies, they do find that it justifies training people prior to putting them in the field, that they are doing long term cost avoidance. So that's up to you, I can't tell you what your own personal financials look like. But I will tell you that by spending that time doing that core knowledge, it's going to lead to faster adoption and absorption of the information we need later. So we do the VA s knowledge then on the H fac side. We do basic familiarization with parts and pieces of hv AC. We do control sequencing, we do a heavy focus on control sequencing and understanding that and then on the ITN low voltage side we focus in on specifically on networks primarily a little bit on virtualization and server technologies and a little bit on databases. And then we focus in on low voltage we focus in on how to wire relays how to Transformers work, but our primary secondaries. What's voltage amperage current, you know, watts versus VA, all that fun stuff. So they start to figure all that out. Now, now we move in to the five specific tasks. And we think about this right? In order to do Point to Point Checkout, in order to add controllers to a database in order to do functional tests in order to do front end setup. What do you need to learn how to do well, you need to know how to get the controllers running and download programs to them. Because what happens if you go do Point to Point Checkout, and you put a calibration factor in a controller that has a program not in it yet, and you put a program in there, you wipe out the

calibration factors. So that being said, a lot of people though, will teach their tax, the first thing is to do wiring checkout and point to point checkout. However, it is really just a hop, skip and a jump to teach them how to download programs to a controller, you need to teach them to make sure that the controllers are powered, that the controllers are addressed which ideally your installers doing so they're just validating and that the device ID is set, etc. and then how to go into the controller software, look at the MEP documents so they know what program goes to what controller look the submittals hopefully it's in the submittals as to what program goes to what controller type, and then how to go in that controller software and download the programs. Once they've done that, they've learned a key skill, you can now send them out and they can either do this on a in the office, which is great, right, you can line up all the controllers on a bench in the office, have someone do a mass download, and you can have a technician watching them. And within 30 minutes, you can teach them how to download programs to a controller, versus going in the field and doing it one z to z. And learning through osmosis. She spend that 30 minutes you teach them how to open up the software, right, and you create a work Word document that says how to do this, like in our startup and checkout course, we have a Word document that says, this is how you do it, step by step. So you do that right, you create a document, step by step, how do they do it, maybe you record a video for them. And they refer back to that maybe that video is on your intranet, and they're able to watch it from their phone. But you teach them how to do that skill. And now guess what, that person who's paid a lot less than your senior tech, they're going out on every job site, and they're downloading programs to the controller, boom, done. Now we move on to point to point checkout. This requires a little bit more skills, but it builds on the skills that were already developed, which is another key concept that a lot of people miss, they don't think about building base skills that then can be built upon. So you build these base skills of downloading programs to the controller, right. And then you build these skills upon the base skills, so that you're not retraining. That's why we have a very specific path in our courses. Man, I'm getting the feeling like this sounds like an infomercial about our courses, I really hope you're not taking it that way. I'm just using our courses as a frame of reference, because I'm so intimately aware of what's inside them and how they work and our thought process behind it. That being said, so our courses are built in such a way that you learn VA s fundamentals, then you learn h fac, then you learn it, then you learn the building automation startup and checkout in the technician path, right. And the reason behind that is rather than having this teach someone something three times in three separate interactions, we teach it to them once and we build upon that. Same with this, right? So you download programs to the controller, then you do Point to Point Checkout, right and so point to point, checkout, same sub skills, right? ability to interpret MEP documents, ability to interpret submittal documents. Now we're adding a skill we're learning how to interpret wiring documents, and wiring diagrams, we're understanding basic electrical, how's the relay wired up? How's the four to 20? How's the zero to 10? What's resistant? was dry contact? What are the internal settings on a controller? What are the external jumper settings on the controller to configure the outputs? What's the difference between externally and internally sourced voltage? When would you want to use Which one? What's the difference between using a common transformer for both the IO and the controller versus using separate con? Transformers? Why does that matter? What do you need to be aware of all these kind of key concepts? And then what is the point configuration? So we teach them how to do Point to Point check out that then right once we've got Point to Point checkout done, and we've got our controllers add, right, we've got our controllers added to the or the programs and our controllers, we got Point to Point checkout done. Now we add controllers to the database, the front end, right? And this requires a whole new set of sub skills, right, we need to understand how do we bring up the supervisory device? How do we add it to the network? How do we go and commission the supervisory device? How do we then map controllers into the combis? How do we set up a combis? Sit BACnet IP is a BACnet mstp? How do we do that? What's baud rate, what's

end of line, all these kind of key concepts at this point, right? You can be six weeks in, you can be eight weeks in and have someone seriously, and I've seen it time and time and time again. You can have someone who understands these fundamental knowledges who is able to download programs to the controller point the point checkout and adding controllers to a supervisory device, you'd have them doing all of that within six to eight weeks, then we move into functional tests functional tests is usually the part that takes the most time to develop. And so this is where I like to bounce between functional tests and front end setup. So functional test is going to require the most skills because now they need to really hone in that hpac knowledge. And this is where stuff can get broken right. This is where you can turn on a fan and not have your pressure safety set right and not open the damper and blow out ductwork. This is where you can make costly mistakes. So functional test is going to be a slower process. It usually will start folks with doing functional tests on vv boxes, then move them to packaged unitary and it's like rooftops then move them to air handlers. And then I'll move them to air cooled central utility plants. I usually will not move them to water cooled hydronic plants I will still have a senior person to that functional test because that is usually beyond the knowledge set. As a new technician, however, everything else is fairly simple. Now, granted, I know some of you are gonna say airside is not simple. I agree. If you have a fan wall, if you have a dual duct unit, if you have something with heat recovery, if you have all sorts of fancy airflow monitoring, yes, that is complicated. I agree. However, once again, we need to go back to our key principle and one of the principles I've talked about many times in the podcast, which is the Pareto principle, which is, what is that 20% that you're going to do 80% of the time? And if we think about that, if we think about that Pareto principle, are we doing these complex fan wall super pressurized super complex air handlers all the time? Or some of the time? The answer for majority of you would be some of the time now there are some of you who are specialty shops, maybe you work in the healthcare space, maybe you're working in the growing hydroponic space, maybe you work in the data center space, absolutely understand that your systems can be complex, and can have serious impacts to life safety and business continuity if they don't properly work. So that's why I say functional test may take longer. That being said, if we're following this path, right, we spent a month on the key pillars, and we spent four to six weeks on the pre previous skills, the three previous skills were only at two and a half, three months at this point, she could spend another three months on key functional tests. But in an ideal world, you should be able to get someone on functional tests on a vv on a unitary unit on a fan coil and a basic air handler and a air cooled chiller, you should be able to get them up to speed on functional tests, if you have the appropriate checklists, and appropriate prereq knowledge, that should take a month, maybe a month and a half of working with them. And what is this working with them look like? It's going to be a combination of classroom learning, as well as on site learning. And then finally, we get to front end setup. This is where we set up the front end, we go and make sure the graphics are set up, we go and make sure the database trends and alarms, point extensions, etc. If you get someone to this point, within six months, you have a awesome technician. This is what a lot of people will argue, is three to four years worth of skill, and I completely disagree that it is three to four years worth of skill. Now obviously during this I've left out manufacturer specific training, I have left out the safety training, you obviously need to do that your organizational training and your cultural training. Obviously, you need to do that. We don't train on safety. And we don't do a whole lot of product specific training outside of Niagara

easy IO and some disk tech GFX training. But that being said, you will have someone who is really, really skilled, I really encourage you to consider this. I encourage you to think differently about workforce development. We have so many job openings, right now for our industry. And we're going to have increasingly more as this COVID situation starts to normalize the bite into administration, no matter what you feel about. I'm not here to talk politics. Regardless, it looks like they are going to bring a huge focus on energy efficiency, which in the past has directly correlated to work for our space. And so if that does happen, and we do get work for our space, especially around the areas of retrofit, and energy efficiency, there will be a huge push for more building automation professionals. And you're going to need to be able to develop them rapidly. You can't wait four years for a university program. Can't wait two years for a trade school. It just takes too long. And based on the feedback from our customers, people are coming out of trade schools and four year programs and they still can't execute out in the field. I don't know why that is I've never went through trade school and never went through a four year controls program. My background is a business degree in an IT degree and obviously decade's worth of time out in the field doing field work. So I can't speak to that. I can just tell you that the current models, according to our customers are not effective. All right, man. I hope this was helpful for you. I really hope you're open minded and you consider a different approach. And you think about man, how could I possibly do this differently? I look forward to interacting with you and talking with you about this in the comments wherever you're watching this YouTube, LinkedIn, our website, make sure you subscribe, go to iTunes subscribe. Also, I would encourage you to leave us a review on iTunes because that definitely help spread the word of the podcast. If you personally are trying to develop new talent or you are in the industry or trying to get in the industry, I encourage you to go to podcast smart buildings academy.com for slash 236 Check out our bs technician path, it'll be a link. That is the quickest way to go and become a VA s technician in our industry. We've had plenty of people go through it, and I look forward to seeing you in it as well. Hey, thanks a ton. I look forward to talking to you again next week. And you all take care thanks, bye

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

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