Oscar Torres is an HVAC student at South Texas College and a member of the HVAC club at his school. Oscar says, “I’m a very competitive person.” During high school he spent a lot of his time practicing for the school band playing the French horn.
His determination and competitiveness pushed him to audition for the Texas band state competition and successfully made it through multiple rounds of auditions.
“I compete with myself in a way that I want to learn as much as possible, to always be better.”
Oscar is a twin and the trades industry is no stranger in his family. His dad has been working in the HVAC industry for years and that’s how Oscar was initially exposed to the amazing opportunities that HVAC can provide. His first time going on a job site with his dad is memorable, despite him being 7 years old, because he almost fell through the ceiling!
Learn more about our discussion as Oscar talks about his first experience with HVAC, how band contributed to his drive and competitive nature, and his desire to spread the word with a younger generation about the opportunities as a tradesperson by reading our interview below.
What does winning this scholarship mean to you?
To me personally, this scholarship is an opportunity for me to continue my education. As far as the money goes and all the apparel and stuff, it motivates me to do better once I’m actually in the field. I’ll be there and be like, hey, this scholarship was what eventually helped me to continue and motivate me. It’s an honor. I know not many people get an opportunity to win a scholarship so the fact that I was chosen is a huge honor.
What do you plan to do with the scholarship award?
For me, I’m using it for gas money. That’s just one application. I know a lot of people like my classmates, they live in the city where the college is located. I live an hour and a half away so I travel like three times a week because I’m also part of the HVAC club. So I go three times a week to the city so that’s a lot of gas, and with the rising gas prices. It’s a little chunk of money that I’ve set aside for gas and another thing is tools. For example, I’ve already bought a big tool, an electronic gauge. I was excited to buy that so that’s one thing. Really I’ve set aside the rest in case I need something. Essentially for right now it’s for gas and tools.
In your scholarship submission, you began your video by saying, “We can never stop learning” and “learning doesn’t stop at the classroom.” Can you tell me more about why you feel learning is so important, especially in an HVAC career?
Well, I think that, I mean we’re technicians and expected to keep up today with any new innovations, or you know learn what’s being brought into the field that’s new. If you graduated 10 years ago and stopped, you think, oh that’s it, I don’t have to do anything about school, I don’t have to learn anything. You’re going to be falling behind with what the customers are expecting. What they’re hearing and the new things coming, so in that case, it’s just always important to keep up to date. Keep learning so that you can stay on top of the field and provide the services that you need to provide for the customer.
You also mentioned that you used to be in band. How has your musical background played a part in learning new skills in HVAC school?
I played the French horn. It has in a way, well, I’m a very competitive person. So when I was in band there in Texas there’s a Texas band state competition. You go through multiple auditions and every year, my freshman year, no, my sophomore year I was like you know, I was telling my brother. I have a twin brother, we are very competitive so that adds to that. And my sophomore year I was like you know what I can make the state competition. Then he’s like I could do it, too, or we pushed each other, and we did eventually make it. It’s like four auditions you have to go through. Very competitive, so that helped me. That kind of set my mind, I’m like I can do this if I could do anything I put my mind to. So when I started with HVAC, I was like I’m going to think about it the same way. When I’m in class, I’m trying to learn as much. I’m not as competitive because there’s no competitive aspect of learning that is not there in HVAC, but I compete with myself in a way that I want to learn as much as possible, to always be better.
Are there any similarities between band and the HVAC industry that you’ve seen? If so, what would you say those are?
I feel like the discipline aspect in my band, we had to be there, almost like an hour and a half earlier from when school started. So it was 6:30 and we were there almost all day from 6:30 to 6:00, actually sometimes to 8:00. Most of the time it was eight, so it was a long day that’s how it’s going to be in the field. You have long days, but as long as you're disciplined, you know it’s what you’re there to do. Another thing that I feel like translates well is you meet a lot of people in a band, you talk to a lot of people. I have another experience that helps me with relatability with customers. I used to work as a salesman in a computer store, so I talked to thousands of customers over weeks. So I know how to communicate with them and solve their problems. I’m going to take that knowledge I learned and that’s my work experience later when I start working in the field.
In your written submission you talked about how you grew up with your dad who is in the HVAC-R industry. What was that like growing up? What did he think when you told him you also want to go into the skilled trades?
The first experience I had with HVAC is actually a funny story. It was a quote unquote bad day, I’m sure my dad finds it amusing now. I was around 7 years old, or something. We went to his office, everybody was, because we’re twins, you get attention - oh my, look they look the same or whatever. We were there at his office, everybody was talking to us, even one of his managers gave us Astro tickets. That was very fun. So we were there and it was time to go on calls. The first call we went to I think we went up to the attic. Kind of funny story, but I fell through or stepped through the fiberglass insulation. Almost fell through the roof, thankfully I didn’t. But that was scary and since I was a little kid. Later, now that I look back at it, it’s a funny story. Before I decided to go back to school, I was living in Houston with him and I would go. He would have side jobs, apart from his regular job, and I would go and help them out and that’s what really got me into it. Hey, this is actually really enjoyable. I didn’t really think about it like a serious thing that I want to do with them, but the more I did it, I was like you know, I kind of want to do this so that was my main reason why I think I mentioned that in my written part. That’s the main reason why I wanted to get into this. I told my mom first, but then I called my dad and he was in disbelief. For the longest time I told him I wanted to do computer science, but I ended up switching off of that. I told him and he was like ‘what, are you serious?’ It almost brought him to tears because he has goals for himself and myself. So it was very nice and touching that he was excited for me and he’s constantly supporting me so it’s a really good experience.
You’ve expressed an interest in mentorship with experienced HVAC professionals and entrepreneurs who own a business. What made you want to participate in a mentorship? What do you hope to gain from that relationship?
I feel like if you have a mentor that you could communicate to, you have any questions, or anything, it’s a good learning experience. Not only that, but with a mentor you know he might be able to provide you with opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get as easily. And you did express that I might be with another mentee so that’s another opportunity that we could back and forth over. You know experiences or opportunities that we might get so I feel like it’s why I was so interested in it. Because I know people are especially people that are using Housecall Pro, I’m assuming that’s what he’s using, right. So they must be good contractors, good people, and good technicians. Ideally I’d like to get a job. That’s probably the best possible scenario. Have a good conversation, maybe his company is hiring. That would be my ideal situation, but if anything, just a simple conversation like hey these are tips I would do if, when I was your age or you know what I mean, something that could help me out along my route.
Why do you think it’s difficult to recruit people into the Trades?
You know that's the conversation I've had with my brother because we went the traditional route well, let me, let me face what I feel like is the traditional route for your college. You know, a degree in the four year college, some type of degree, is the route that it's pushed on through elementary, middle school and high school right. So if that's all they're told then they're not really going to explore these other options like trade school vocational schools technical schools. The students just think oh I just graduated high school I need to go to a four year university. But trade school is just the opportunity that I realized is amazing, like it's not well known and that's it's a problem, because obviously there's shortages, for you know these types of dogs. But yeah I really think that the reason why it's not as well known is because the traditional route is pushed more than this trade school route.
What message would you share with someone considering a career in HVAC?
That's an interesting question because I'm actually going to be working as a substitute teacher for multiple school districts and cities close by. And my goal is that I will ask people as students, whenever I get to substitute teacher. or whatever classroom assigned to i'm going to ask is anyone looking to get into the HR field, or a welding field, or anything. I just write it on the board or at the end of the class and then talk to them and give them advice. That's my plan. But I would tell them that I would encourage them to follow that route and to just look at information and look at videos because really like they should be exposed and if I could provide that opportunity to tell them about it, then I'll for sure do that.
I do want to talk about the Housecall Pro. We have a professor or instructor. Oh, he's a professor for one of my classes. We went to his job site that he was doing, and he was telling us about how his company grew and how he's using this product that manages everything because he used to do it all manually. And then I ask what's the name of the product or the you know the program and he's like oh, Housecall Pro, and I was like wow.
Check Out More Scholarship Winners
Curious to get to know the other exceptional winners of the Trade Academy 2021 HVAC Scholarship? Click here to see the list of scholarship award winners.