Neil Szabo surrounded by HVAC and gas technician study materials at his home in Toronto
Neil Szabo did not start out wanting to become a gas technician. In fact, he spent almost two decades working in television before deciding it was time for a change.
He looked at all the options and settled on gas technician training as the quickest, most efficient route to a satisfying and well-paid career. Now he's a G2 certified technician with a full-time job at a great local company.
It's been an action-packed journey of training and growth. Neil says he's learned more in the last few months than he did in the previous several years!
And it all started with gas technician training at Herzing College Toronto. Neil graduated from the program in May 2020 and has been thriving in the trade ever since.
This week we caught up with Neil to find out how things are going at work and what he's up to now.
We talked about his experience in the gas technician program, his plans for the future, and how life has changed since he went back to school. Read on for all the highlights.
Q: Neil, can you tell us a little about yourself? What you were doing before you went back to school?
Neil: I have lived in Toronto all my life. I worked in the GTA as a television producer/editor for 17 years before deciding on a second career in the trades.
Q: Why did you choose gas technician training?
Neil: There were a lot of trades I was interested in, but it was a combination of timeline and personal preference for me.
One and a half years to get certified and back to work was about the maximum I was looking to take. Other programs were longer or had very crowded apprenticeship queues that just didn’t work for me.
Gas technician training was the most efficient, quick option.
Q: Did you do both the level 3 and 2 Gas Technician programs?
Neil: Yes, I am now a certified G2. I'll be looking to apply to a 313A apprenticeship program next. That's the refrigeration and air conditioning systems mechanic licence.
Most companies want you to work on both heat and A/C, or even bigger systems. Getting the 313A opens up more job options. I will likely go on to get my G1 too, so I can teach one day.
Q: What is your overall opinion of Herzing's gas technician training?
Neil: I liked Herzing College for their facility and staff. The Gas Technician program is very hands-on and not just about passing exams. We learned practical skills needed to actually work in the trade.
The school has an impressive lab and they're always upgrading it. The instructors are very knowledgeable and realistic about the training.
They get you to be as perfect and precise as possible, so when you get into the field you're starting from a solid foundation.
Employers notice it too. We come out working to a very high standard.
Q: What was the toughest part of the program for you?
Neil: There were many areas I was not familiar with going in. I dropped science and math early in high school because I wouldn’t need them for television.
Twenty years later, those subjects were all there waiting for me. I sat down that first day and said to myself, "Well, well, well. If it isn’t the consequences of my own actions coming back to haunt me..."
But the instructors were patient and persistent. Anywhere I was weak they made sure to focus more. But you have to ask questions and not be afraid to say, “Sorry, I still don’t get it.”
That was the hardest part for me: asking for help and admitting when I was lost.
Q: Did Herzing prepare you well for the gas technician certification exams?
Neil: I passed my G3 with 92 per cent and my G2 with 87 per cent. The courses and instructors did an amazing job of getting us ready.
Pushing us to that high standard made the exams less scary than I expected. But you really do have to study constantly and push yourself too.
Q: Is it true that you also became a Teaching Assistant for the gas technician program?
Neil: Yes, I was offered the chance to become a Teaching Assistant (TA) and decided to try it. That was my approach to life as I started my new career: Just try it.
I enjoyed being able to help out and guide other students with my recent experience. It was also great working with the other trade programs and picking up little tips and tricks from those instructors too.
In HVAC and gas, you really do have to know a little bit about all the other trades. This is key for doing your job safely, and working respectfully with the other trades you collaborate with.
Q: Can you tell us about where you're working now?
Neil: I am currently employed by a small company called Forge Mechanical. Though I get offers from other companies on a weekly basis asking if I would like to come work for them.
But I am happy where I am because of the scope of work I get to do. Plus the hours give me a great work-life balance.
I am gaining years of experience in months. We do commercial, residential, rooftops, condos, A/C, heat, buried lines – everything.
I know I will have to leave to pursue my 313A, but continuous training is a huge part of this trade. You have to keep learning.
That is what will give you the flexibility to go where you want, do what you want, and make the kind of money you want.
Q: What are the most important qualities to succeed as a gas technician?
Neil: First and foremost, you must be vigilant about safety. You need to protect your own safety and that of your clients.
If it’s not safe for you, don’t do it. If it’s not safe for them, shut it down.
Secondly, you need qualities like curiosity, persistence, and focus. You have to be willing to read, learn, ask questions, and look deeper than just memorizing facts.
There is a lot of troubleshooting in this trade and that means reading, reading, and reading. You'll be constantly looking at manuals, codes, support websites, and notices from manufacturers and the TSSA.
The last is patience. Don’t rush through training or tests. It’s not a race. In the field, take the time you need to make sure things are correct and safe–especially when you are just starting out.
You will feel pressure to perform and impress employers and clients. Ignore it. Do it right, not fast. Speed will come with experience.
Keep learning. Keep growing. That is the core of this trade.
Thanks Neil, for checking in with us. Good luck with the next stage of your career!
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