Falls Church, VA. — According to his supervisor, Tyler Plueger “plays well in the sandbox.” A young field technician with Downey Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in southern California, Plueger “runs his own band,” from being dispatched, to diagnosing problems and offering solutions, to repairing equipment and selling new equipment,” said the company’s managing partner, Joseph Keays.

“He’s not afraid to get in there and try to figure something out, and his attitude and demeanor is perceived very well among our clients,” Keays added. As a result, “Tyler has very, very few callbacks. Everybody gets some, but his frequency is low, especially considering he’s fairly new to the trade.”

It also seems that Plueger plays well among his peers. After all, he took home top honors as the winner of PHCC’s 2013 HVAC Apprentice Contest, held during the association’s CONNECT convention in Las Vegas.

While Plueger admits that the win earned him “a little more respect around the shop,” more importantly, it gave him “a lot more personal confidence in the field.” He explains that – prior to the competition – he had only been working in the plumbing and HVAC arena for about nine months, but, winning the contest confirmed in his mind that “I know how to do this.”

He added, “I may need to take more time, pay more attention, be more patient, but I know this stuff, especially when it comes to things that are not super obvious. It made me not second-guess myself.”

Contest nuts-and-bolts

Plueger said that – walking into the competition – “I had no expectations.” The HVAC Contest features the nation’s top 12 HVAC apprentices in a hands-on competition that comprises six events. PHCC also had a contest for plumbing apprentices. The contest really set the bar for what we should know,” said Plueger, “and, while it was a bit of an eye opener in some areas, it also helped confirm some things I already knew.”

In the end, Plueger considers the contest’s practical application setting key to his success. “Hands-on is where you really learn most of your stuff,” he said of his preparation as an apprentice. “If I had just read the book, there’s no way I could have won,” he adds. “It’s like being in a lab, doing recovery and troubleshooting … that was the biggest factor in helping me in this competition.”

In addition to the actual contest, contestants have the opportunity to attend special educational seminars at CONNECT, complete with peer-to-peer networking and exposure to the latest technologies and products available. “It was really great for building connections,” Plueger said of his involvement last year.