At HVACR Week 2011, North American Technician Excellence (NATE) recognized three “Top Techs” who hold multiple NATE certifications. This month, Contracting Business.com is pleased to introduce Ken Fulk, American Standard field service representative, Duncan Supply Co. Inc., Indianapolis, IN.

For Ken Fulk, it all started with an "apple house" in rural Arney, IN.

When Fulk was just 13 years old, he worked picking apples, which were then put into an apple house. The apple house was kept cool by a small, belt-driven compressor. "It really bugged me, how this little mechanical thing could keep an entire building so cold," he recalls. "It was always in the back of my mind that I sure would like to learn how that worked."

Four years later, Fulk was 17 and facing the choice of attending college or going straight into the workforce. He decided that rather then spend four years studying at college, he was going to take the path to quicker profitable employment.

"Little did I realize when I decided not to study for four years that I’d end up in a field where I would be studying year after year, and the year after that, and always learning something new, and ultimately teaching," he says.

Today Fulk holds NATE installation and service certifications in air conditioning, air distribution, gas furnace, heat pump, and light commercial refrigeration.

He has two pieces of advice for young people interested in becoming HVAC technicians, and one piece of advice for HVAC company owners.

"First, someone who wants to become a technician should attend a qualified vocational school to learn the fundamentals of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration," Fulk says. "Next, pursue the areas of the industry you find most interesting, and obtain and maintain your NATE certifications in those areas."

To HVAC company owners, Fulk offers slightly more stern advice: "Many owners have the idea that they can’t afford to take their technicians out of the field for training," Fulk says. "That’s an absolute fallacy. This industry is changing very fast and owners must provide the time and money for training. In fact, they can’t afford not to."