Matthew Langan, HVAC/R instructor from Emily Griffith Technical College, has been in the industry for 40 years — spending 25 of those years owning his own business. He knows what it takes to excel in the trade, and he shares his wisdom with students enrolled in the Denver, Colorado college’s HVACR program. In just 10 months, students learn the skills needed to begin their careers — and that’s thanks to a hybrid program of courses and hands-on learning.

“We start out with fundamental courses so it would be basic electricity, basic refrigeration, basic air conditioning and then we move on to commercial systems and components,” Langan says. “I kind of try to tailor that to how much the students can grasp, and that can vary pretty widely depending on their backgrounds.” 

There is one main goal of this program: getting students employed. And thanks to a partnership with Polar Ice, Emily Griffith Technical College is doing just that. The commercial ice machine company began offering ride-alongs to students enrolled in the HVACR program as a way to let students experience the refrigeration trade and build relationships that could result in a career. 

“We ended up hiring a couple out of Emily Griffith from the ride-along process and we hope to hire more in the future,” says Dustin Ferrel, the branch manager for Polar Ice.

The day-long ride-alongs give students the chance to experience the field first-hand and decide whether or not refrigeration is the way they want to go. 

“Our goal is long-term employment with these students. This isn’t a temporary deal,” Ferrel says. “We hope to find students that want to direct their attention down this career path.” 

The partnership has helped students enormously, Langan says. 

“We have equipment that we work on. We have exercises that we do, but nothing is quite like going on the job,” Langan says. “So this gives them a sense of what the day in the life of a technician would be like, and how it’s structured, what you’re doing.” 

Plus, they can ask questions about how the technicians came up in the trade, what their life is like and the kinds of things they continue to learn. 

Continued education is essential, Langan adds, and it’s something he tells students to prepare for after their 10 months in the program.

“The technology is constantly changing and one thing I’ve been telling all of my students is really your real education begins when you get out on the job,” he says.

Those changes in technology are what drive the program to continue to evolve.

“I think that’s really a constant because as the technology changes (and) as the needs of the industry changes, we react to that.”

Students can expect to take the following courses: 

  • Safety Training for the Trades
  • Basic Refrigeration
  • Electrical Components
  • Electricity for HVACR
  • Fundamentals of Gas Heating
  • Piping Skills
  • Refrigerant Recovery Training
  • Residential Air Conditioning
  • Residential HVAC Troubleshooting
  • HVAC&R Systems
  • Advanced Refrigeration
  • Hot Water Heating Systems
  • AC Systems Service & Repair
  • Direct Digital Controls
  • Building Automation II, Service

Those interested in applying for the program can apply online or through Denver Public Schools.

An apprenticeship program is offered, as well. For more information about the HVACR program at Emily Griffith Technical College, visit

Stacey Winconek is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Metro Parent, Chicago Parent and Oakland University Magazine.