PAGE – By the end of this week, 13 individuals from this community will be certified maintenance technicians – that is if they all pass the two-hour, 30-minute Certificate for Apartment Maintenance Technicians exam.
“And they have to pass by 70 percent,” said David Cain, construction technology management instructor at Coconino Community College in Flagstaff, who teaches the program with his colleague, Kenneth Myers.
“There’s 100 questions.”
Being CAMT-certified boosts knowledge and skills, reputation, and even boosts confidence, according to the instructors who are experts in the field. Having that certification indicates to potential employers of one’s accountability and high standards of maintenance. And having it on one’s resume gives a future manager a better sense of one’s current skill level since the course’s topics are uniform nationally.
“It runs in all 50 states and they strictly work with apartments,” Myers said. “What we’ve done here in Page is we’ve made it the Certificate (for) Maintenance Technicians program.”
The CAMT program is an extensive, 102-hour program at CCC in Flagstaff and it was extended to Page for the past five weeks. The program is now in its fifth year at CCC and a total of 73 participants, including this group, have signed up for the program within the last five years.
The program started on May 29 and ended today, June 27. Lectures took place at CCC’s Page Instructional Site and hands-on labs took place at the Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology building five times a week.
“It (was) a five-week course, Monday through Friday,” said Norman Richardson, 45, who took part in the program. “We (were) here all day, morning to evening, hands-on and watched (instructional) videos.”
For eight hours a day, students in the program learned about a number of things, including electrical; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; plumbing, among a long list of others.
Myers says the students were taught maintenance and repairs for hotels and motels, houseboats, and other commercial industries because this particular CAMT program was tailored for the community’s needs.
They even had a 16-hour segment on house wiring and a 16-hour segment on plumbing fixtures, said Myers.
“When we (covered) plumbing, we (did) everything from copper to pipe to the new plastic called PEX (crosslinked polyethylene),” Cain explained. “And we had a manufacturer come to campus and basically demonstrate the brand new technique for gas line and for PEX. We also (did) HVAC and refrigeration.”
Myers this week taught the students how to maintain and repair dishwashers, electric and gas stoves, and how to maintain and repair refrigerators.
“So, those are the content areas that we (covered) and we (did) it in about five weeks,” Cain said. “It’s a national program run out of Arlington County, Virginia, and it’s all across the states. It’s a national certification program. And we’re lucky enough to be a college that provides it in Arizona.”
And these 13 students were lucky enough to become part of the CAMT program. One of those students is 16-year-old Bryan Redhair, the youngest student in the program. The eldest of the group was a 53-year-old. It was a teacher’s influence that Redhair signed up for the program before school ended in May, when the minimum age for instruction was 18. This year, the minimum age was lowered to 16.
Redhair says he knew he would not have anything to do for the summer so he signed up immediately.
“And it’s been really cool and fun,” he said, adding that he is going to fix his grandmother’s air conditioning unit, repair a hole in her roof, and start keeping her home in tip-top condition. “And fix everything up in the house. Now, learning about this, I’ll be able to do it.”
For others like Richardson, being part of the program was a big opportunity in view of the fact that it could open a lot of doors close to home instead of traveling from job to job as a welder.
“It just betters my chance of getting a full-time job here as a (certified apartment maintenance technician),” Richardson said. “And that’s my goal, to be (CAMT-certified).”
The instructors say that they are hoping everyone in the program gets CAMT certified.
“They’ll also be certified in the Environmental Protection Agency’s new refrigerant regulations, (which took effect at the beginning of the year),” Myers said. “Along with that, they can get a universal certificate, (servicing all types of equipment), or they can get a tier certificate, (aka stackable credentials), which consists of the common core type I (servicing small appliances), type II (high-pressure appliances), and type III (low-pressure appliances) refrigerants. It’s all about refrigerants.”
And that is a pretty good designation for work, said Cain, who, together with Myers, has an excellent track record of students passing the exam and getting employment.
“Our track record, Ken and I, we try to achieve 80 to 90 percent passing the exam,” Cain said, “and our employment rate is even that high. They’ve already got plumbing and gas line certification, every one of them in (this program) have that. They come out (of the program) loaded with the things they need for employment.”
The instructors hold a success rate of up to 92 percent, which is based on two factors: passing the CAMT exam and getting employment.
“Now, if they don’t pass the exam the first time, Ken and I help them pass it the second time,” Cain said, adding that the students were excited and showed up every morning before 8 a.m. ready to learn the curriculum, which is very well-developed.
“What excites me about the program is when the students take this stuff and actually go to their own home,” Myers added. “I think all of them have tested their hot water heaters and all of them have worked on their toilets at home.”
The tuition for each student in this particular program – roughly $1,000 – was covered by grant funding through the federal government and Salt River Project, meaning these students are not charged a dime.
“I’m just surprised that there (wasn’t) more of us in (the program), especially when the class was offered for free,” Richardson said. “I heard about this program one day on the radio … and I thought I was too old to go into some kind of (program) like this but the (instructors) encouraged me and said, ‘Why don’t you try it.’”
The students who go through this program at CCC’s Lone Tree campus are usually hired before they complete the final exam, according to Myers.
“So, we are hoping that the community of Page is going to receive these students and give them the same opportunity as we’re getting in Flagstaff,” Myers added. “The national organization is very excited about what we’re doing with this program. So, they’re very curious about how it’s received in Page because we’re taking it a step further and we included houseboats, hotel and restaurant management, and things like that. It’s kind of a pilot program nation-wide.”
But the instructors are waiting to see how the first round of instruction goes and how well-received the students are in the community. One thing the instructors do not want to do is flood the market with too many CAMT-certified people who might not all get jobs.
“So, we want to pace ourselves,” Myers said. “If the first 13 go out the door and if they get hired right on and they’re working in the community, then yes, we’re planning on running a second group (to go through the program). It depends on if these students get hired.”
The program is offered once a year in Flagstaff.
“If somebody needs a maintenance technician, we’ve got them. They can pick through any of the 13 people.”