Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. For Johnny Farris, the hands-on training he received at the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center’s Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) program helped him land an excellent full-time position at Woodland Pond—a senior living community in New Paltz—on the day he graduated from New Paltz High School in June of 2023.
“I love getting to work out solutions to the mechanical problems I encounter daily,” Johnny says. “And every day, I continue to build my skill set.”
While in high school, Johnny was encouraged by a friend to enroll in the HVAC program at Ulster BOCES. “After the first year, I realized that I learned quite a bit,” he says. “I liked it and wanted to go farther.” In his second year, Johnny moved on to completing several certifications, including the OSHA ten-hour course, EPA 608 Technician Certification, and Green Awareness. In addition, Johnny found he really appreciated the style of learning that Ulster BOCES offered.
“Actually using my own hands and trying things out really made the information easier to grasp.”
Though he recalls that there were many great instructors at Ulster BOCES, Johnny says his favorite was John Henrikson. “During my first year in HVAC, there was a point where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue, but Mr. H. helped me and gave me the confidence to keep going. He encouraged me to learn more and do the hands-on work that I really enjoy. It is because of him and the skills I learned in his class that I have this HVAC job now.”
Johnny secured the Woodland Pond position in his senior year of high school when Tom Tango, Director of Plant Operations and Security at Woodland Pond, was looking to hire an HVAC technician and reached out to Assistant Principal Steve Casa. “I am a big fan of the career training programs at the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center,” Tango says.
Casa immediately knew Johnny was a strong candidate for Tango’s needs, “Johnny has a great affect and is a wonderful communicator. His reliability stood out, as did his ability to complete projects— and the fact that he lived near Woodland Pond was an added bonus,” he says.
“After receiving a glowing report from his instructor, I knew he would be a great fit,” he adds.
Tango was also confident he had found the right match after interviewing Johnny. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve hired a lot of people. When I interviewed Johnny, I didn’t doubt his technical ability because he was coming highly recommended from Ulster BOCES,” he recalls. “During the interview, Johnny came across as a competent, serious-minded young man. But what really clinched it for me was that the only question Johnny asked was that if he wanted to go for more training, would we pay for it? That’s when I knew I had the right candidate.”
Fortunately for Johnny, the answer to his question was yes, and he is excited to continue to build his expertise in the industry by learning more about the many varied aspects of HVAC he will encounter in his position.
Johnny says that the work he does at Woodland Pond differs from working with most HVAC contractors because there is such a wide range of equipment for him to maintain. Here, he works with both small and large residential units, commercial refrigeration, heating, and more. He is also in contact with other HVAC contractors that come in for specific situations, and is learning while working alongside them.
His willingness to learn and grow continues to impress Tango. “Yesterday, we had an issue with a unit that we couldn’t figure out,” he explains. “We brought in a contractor who worked with Johnny to solve the problem, and in the process, Johnny learned how to fix this issue. This was one out of 177 units, so now next time we see this issue, instead of bringing in a contractor, Johnny will be able to fix it himself.”
“This is possible not only because of the skills he learned at Ulster BOCES,” Tango adds, “but also because of the way he absorbs and applies his knowledge.”
“My goals are to learn and grasp as much as I can,” says Johnny. “I enjoy getting my hands on the equipment and doing new stuff every day.”
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