Brett Harmon went into heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration because he knew it would provide a steady income. The field has allowed him to return to his hometown of Imperial.
Brett Harmon is a realist.
He's known what he wanted to do with his life and where he wanted to be from a very young age, and he developed that goal based on what made sense.
"I knew from day one that you've got to pick a career that will always be needed," said Harmon. "It seems like there are a lot of professions out there that people want to pursue, but that there's no demand for. I picked [heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration] because as long as there's electricity, I will have a job."
Harmon is the maintenance supervisor for Chase County Community Hospital in Imperial. His responsibilities vary – from working on boilers and rooftop units to servicing split system air conditioners and managing contracts with service providers.
"I wasn't a failing student in high school, but I wasn't a straight 'A' student either," Harmon said. "I got bored sitting in a classroom. I wanted to work with my hands, so that's why HVACR appealed to me. It just seemed natural."
The Imperial native got his first glimpse at the world of HVACR while attending Chase County High School.
"I always saw the school's facility manager messing with the boiler and air conditioner," Harmon said. "That caught my eye because I enjoyed fixing things. He said that if I went into HVACR, I could make pretty good money."
Harmon knew of two HVACR companies in Imperial that were advertising for technicians at the time, and he ultimately wanted to stay in the area because of the small-town atmosphere.
So, by the time he graduated from high school in 2009, Harmon had made up his mind to enroll in the HVACR program at North Platte Community College.
"NPCC was my first choice," Harmon said. "It was close to home, so I could go back and work on the weekends. I also really liked the instructor, Rex Kemp. I met Rex when I toured the college, and that was the deciding factor for me. I just got along really well with him."
Once in the HVACR program, Harmon appreciated the one-on-one instruction, hands-on learning, state-of-the-art technology and the variation of brands of units available to practice on. He especially enjoyed an internship with Troxell's Heating and Appliance in Imperial.
"I interned for a full summer, and I'm so glad I did," Harmon said. "I gained so much by applying what I had studied at the college to real-world situations. I had to learn to think on my own without being guided by an instructor."
Brett Harmon, of Imperial, checks the voltage on a domestic boiler at Chase County Community Hospital on Monday. Harmon graduated from the HVACR program at North Platte Community College.
Troxell's offered Harmon a full-time job as soon as he finished training at NPCC. He worked for the company for seven years – an experience that also allowed him to learn about appliances.
He then spent a year doing maintenance at a nursing home before being recruited to his current position in September.
"I enjoy the variety of my job now," Harmon said. "I can use the training I went to school for and apply it to something different every day."
He credits NPCC, not only for putting him on the path to his current occupation, but also for broadening his skills across the board.
"That's the great thing about the HVACR program – you learn things, from reading schematics to soldering and running power tools, that open doors to other jobs not directly related to HVACR," Harmon said.
And, unlike some friends of his, Harmon didn't walk away from college with a burdening amount of student debt.
"The cost of the HVACR program in North Platte is not much at all, and you're pretty much guaranteed work right away – anywhere in the country. Demand is super high," Harmon said. "The fact that I could go to school for a year for less than $10,000 and get a job right away and have my schooling paid off was way better than going to school for four years, having incredible debt and not being able to get work anywhere. From small towns to big cities, there's always a need for HVACR."
More information about North Platte Community College and its HVACR program can be found online at mpcc.edu.