by Andrew Martin
Veterans wishing to continue their education after serving in the armed forces can now do so at the Green Mountain Technology and Career Center. The center can now accept benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for vets wishing to attend the center for the HVAC adult program. Martin photo
HYDE PARK – Veterans in the Lamoille Valley looking to continue their education after their service in the armed forces is finished, now have that opportunity. The Green Mountain Technology and Career Center is able to accept Post 9/11 Veterans Benefits for HVAC for Adults training.
‘This is a great breakthrough,” explained GMTCC Adult Education Coordinator Sherry Lussier, “Too many of our vets were being sent out of state to receive training in the trades.”
The reason that this new development can be considered a breakthrough is the fact that GMTCC is now the only tech center in Vermont that accepts benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). According to Lussier the only other adult education program in the state that does accept VA benefits is the airplane mechanics program in Burlington, which is technically its own separate entity.
“In the past tech, centers were not allowed to receive Post 9/11 Veterans Benefits,” stated Lussier, “There are barriers in some of the G.I. bills that make it difficult for some adult education facilities to take vets.”
It is a lengthy application process for a facility like GMTCC to be able to accept VA benefits, but Lussier and award-winning Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) instructor Mark Wright decided to undertake the process beginning in September of 2012.
“We wanted vets in our area to be able to be served by our center,” explained Lussier.
According to Lussier several other Vermont and New England tech centers have attempted to become eligible for VA benefits but failed. However, using those failed applications as a guideline aided her and Wright in knowing how to fill out their own application. Sherry filled out the extensive application with the help of Wright, who also designed a curriculum for the new program. The pair also had extensive aid from Jacquelyn Carlomagno, the program director for the State of Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Education and Training State Approving Agency.
“We received so much help with the application from Jacquelyn,” commented Lussier.
The extensive work on the application paid off when both Carlomagno and then the regional VA representative in Connecticut approved the GMTCC application, meaning that as of the week of January 7 the center could officially accept Post 9/11 Veterans Benefits for the HVAC program.
Being able to accept the benefits means that the VA can now pay the tuition of any post 9/11 veteran wishing to enroll in the HVAC program at GMTCC. Tuition for the Adult HVAC program at GMTCC is $3,100 for each half year course. Another benefit offered by the tech center is the fact that individuals in the programming can take HVAC I and HVAC II at the same time, which allows them to meet the requirement of 20 hours a week of classroom time required by some VA programs.
According to Lussier each program at the center must have its own application for VA benefits, and she plans on next submitting an application for the Licensed Nurse Assistant program to be eligible for the benefits. The success of the GMTCC application is also causing other tech centers around the state to use that application as a guide in order to help their own programs in applying for similar benefits.
Along with the new plus of receiving the VA benefits, the HVAC program at GMTCC is also now entering its second half-year course of offering night classes for adults and students unable to attend in the day. The first night class course was offered this fall and had four adult students. The 15-week, 120-hour Adult HVAC course allows participants to test for their National Oilheat Research Alliance Bronze Certificate as well as their EPA Act 608 Safe Refrigerant Handling Certificate.
“Normally people could only earn these certificates if they were already in the trade,” stated Wright, “It is a huge feather in an applicant’s cap to already have them… it is also a benefit for the employer since they don’t have to fund that process.” Wright went on to explain that passing the test for the certificates allows those who do pass to get their foot in the door when looking for a job and that once they get the job they are able to have the opportunity to become a technician in the field.
GMTCC is currently taking applications for the spring session of the HVAC for Adults program. The course will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. beginning in February and ending in May.