Heatcraft Celebrates Nearly a Half Century of Excellence from Training Legend Joe Jones
“It’s the AHA moments…when you’re training someone, who has been in the industry for 25 minutes or 25 years, and you show them something and it’s like…Aha, I get it now!” – Joe Jones
When Heatcraft’s Technical Training Manager, 48 year refrigeration industry veteran Joe Jones, was asked about the most rewarding moments of his job, “witnessing Aha moments” was his answer. For decades, Jones has been inspiring those moments with refrigeration contractors, technicians, and other professionals. For perspective, records revealed that within 5 of those years, 3500 individuals took Joe’s classes. Since Jones has officially been training for the last 25 years, a conservative estimate of his students easily surpasses 20 thousand.
Looking around his office, Jones’s personable demeanor and easy smile is accented nicely by the assortment of items on display. A Heatcraft “6th Man” award, for helping the sales team excel, hangs with such subtlety that it almost blends into the shelf it sits upon. Other accolades, such as founding an ASHRAE chapter for which he also received the presidential award of excellence, almost become lost behind the colorful collection of classic car models/banks that sit in rows above a shelf of family pictures.
Routinely deflecting recognition, Jones reminds consistently that his professional accomplishments were driven by the teams he has worked with.
Jones’ contributions to the refrigeration industry began with his career in sales. “When my wife agreed to become my wife, I told her my ambition was to get into the field, and I started working at Bohn,” he commented. “Five years later I did, and she wasn’t happy. Honestly, nothing happens until something is sold. In the field, you figure out how to help, teach, and create opportunity. Becoming a salesman helped me segue into technical training.”
During his career, Jones wore many hats. He began with Lennox/Heatcraft supporting the former “Hussman Refrigeration.” He entered sales orders on paper, then later on an “IBM 4883.” He moved from there into the field, then to the refrigeration application group. Jones then segued into the air conditioning application group, engineering, then as a marketing manager (while simultaneously helping with software development, and application engineering). He co- created Bohn’s tagline, “The Cold Standard.” After a stint as Product Manager, Heatcraft bought Larkin and Bohn, while Lennox purchased Chandler and Climate Control with the brands coming together under Heatcraft in 1989.
Back then in the field, Jones carried a 35mm camera for pictures. He created a customized hood to put over a CRT for the computer to create training slides. In this era before PowerPoint, Jones conducted countless trainings at tradeshows, and regional, divisional, and national meetings. These became blueprints for training courses such as “Fundamentals of Refrigeration” and “Load calculation and Equipment Selection.” Jones spearheaded transforming classroom training into webinars, condensing long sessions to one hour or less. His concise, focused curriculum was adopted by numerous companies for internal training. Although Jones embraced technology early-on, he worries that it can devalue essential hands-on training technicians need.
“The flipside of technology is that technicians are no longer discovering how and why things happen. They focus on getting the system up and running, as opposed to how it works. Technology is coming at our industry so fast that our technicians can’t keep up” Jones cautioned. Our learners are kinetic; they need to touch, feel, wire things up. We developed simulators to enhance on-site instruction for better understanding, supplementing training received via slides, videos or PowerPoint.
Now nearing his retirement, Jones believes in 10-15 years the industry will be radically different. He encourages young technicians to attend a trade school to gain understanding. Citing a lack of skilled technicians due to pay inequity with other industries, he believes that the very technology that diminished hands-on skill, can now serve as a great equalizer to boost wages, increase overall employment and respect for refrigeration technicians.
“Much like the transition that the automobile industry experienced, where mechanics had to learn technology and move from shade-tree mechanic to expert, this is happening with refrigeration, and that’s good for our trade,” he added.
While some find themselves lost in the changing dynamics in industries like refrigeration, Joe Jones not only found and firmly established an identity and influence within it; he enthusiastically served as the bridge between the conceptual and the hands-on technical. With his work ethic and passion, he carved out that rare path forged from a journey that is unmistakably his own, literally touching every corner of an industry where attention to detail truly matters.
As his co-workers, protégés, and others spanning countless organizations and career paths prepare to navigate an industry without him, it is nearly impossible to go through a work day and not benefit from some product, lesson, or protocol Jones had a hand in. That in of itself is the most fitting tribute to a man whose impact is only rivaled by his humility and enthusiasm for the future of the business he dedicated his life to.