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President Joe Biden is suddenly showing a lot of interest in HVAC. Biden visited an HVAC laboratory at Tidewater Community College in Virginia in early May. A week and a half earlier, he presented Johnson Controls CEO George Oliver as a speaker at the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate April 22. Both events were designed to advance the administration’s policy goals.

The President and first lady Jill Biden, who has a doctorate in education, received a first-hand look at how future HVAC technicians learn their trade. Instructor Harlan Krepcik explained how the first-year students were learning how to use instruments to measure a system’s current.

“If they master these things, they’ll have a durable, competitive advantage in the job market,” Krepcik told the President. “We need skilled technicians, and the challenge we face is that the public views the trades as a last choice. Many students would do well coming to community college and getting the hands-on training necessary to enter the skilled trades.”

Tidewater offers a three-semester certification program and a four-semester degree program. Krepcik shared that one of his current students is the brother of one of the Air Force One pilots.

After the tour, the Bidens spoke to a crowd that included college staff, politicians, and the press. President Biden laid out his plan to provide two years of community college free to every high school graduate, as well as older workers in need of new skill training. He said this was necessary to keep up with other countries in the global economy.

“We’re in a race,” Biden said. “It all starts with access to good education. Any country that outeducates us will outcompete us. That’s why we need two years of free community college.”

Biden also wants to expand Pell Grants to help students pay for other needs, such as transportation and food. He also wants to expand preschool and child care so parents can pursue their degrees without having to worry about where to put their kids.

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