Interview with Stevie Jones: Understanding NAIMA’s Duct Instruct Program

As the insulation industry strives to help equip new talent with the skills and tools necessary to fabricate and install well-detailed, effective insulation systems, many programs are being developed by major players in the insulation industry to meet the growing need for education. For example, NAIMA (the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association) developed the Duct Instruct Program – a train-the-trainer program designed to help ensure that vocational schools are equipped to properly train their students on duct board fabrication.

We recently met with Stevie Jones, the manager of the NAIMA Duct Instruct Program, to learn more about the program and its evolution in the insulation industry.

Can you give us a few details about your role, professional history, and how you came to be involved in the Duct Board Training program?
I used to work for a major insulation manufacturer as their Director of Communications for their Industrial Insulation Products.  In that capacity, I sat on all the product committees of NAIMA – including the NAIMA Air Handling Committee.  After 8 years as the Director of Communications, I left to start my own marketing communications agency and NAIMA’s Air Handling Committee became my client.  NAIMA’s Air Handling Committee is made up of the technical, marketing, and product development specialists from each of the main fiberglass producers.   At that time (2005) that committee’s biggest concern – that then turned into our biggest initiative – was the lack of trained contractors who knew how to fabricate and install fiberglass duct board systems.  So, while sales were on the rise, installations were failing, and many companies had all but stopped contractor training for fiberglass duct board.   It wasn’t long before there was a mistrust of the product in the market.  Poor installation, along with concerns at the time about whether or not internally insulated duct systems impacted indoor air quality (IAQ), led to the NAIMA Duct Instruct Program. The program utilizes a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ concept; our focus was (and still is) on training HVAC instructors how to teach fiberglass duct construction to students enrolled in HVAC Technicians programs at Vocational and Career training schools. 

My specific role is to work at the direction of the industry pros on that committee and help with the writing, program development, and marketing of this NAIMA training program.  It eventually led to me taking over as in independent manager for NAIMA’s Duct Instruct Program.

What is the Duct Board Instruct program? 
The mission of the program is to provide instructor training in the latest technologies so students can keep pace with new developments in their area of expertise. The program will help HVAC contractors and technicians learn the importance of fabricating and installing fiberglass duct systems correctly to maximize HVAC equipment performance and achieve efficient air distribution. The course is comprised of three modules: Basics, Fabrication, and Installation.  The Basics module provides a foundation, serving as a prerequisite for further training.  In the Fabrication unit, students learn basic techniques for fabricating duct sections and fittings from duct board to ready it for installation.  The Installation module focuses on proper installation techniques in a variety of residential and light commercial buildings. 

Why did NAIMA undertake this initiative?
The manufacturers of fiberglass duct board products for the HVAC market are in agreement that specialized fabrication and installation instruction is critical to the long-term success of the product and ensuring that the product performs as specified.However, manufacturers have limited resources available to instruct users on how to fabricate their duct board product into high quality, air tight duct systems, and none have the personnel or equipment to efficiently handle the training required at all levels.

Responding to a number of code change issues, product misperceptions, installation failures, and lack of qualified fabrication specialists, the manufacturers agreed upon an industry-wide stewardship program and developed comprehensive ‘industry-approved’ training methodologies, manuals, and tools. The manufacturers, through their Association (North American Insulation Manufacturers Association – NAIMA), embarked on a ‘train-the-trainer’ program targeting vocational schools with successful HVAC/R programs in large duct board markets. The program’s goal was to train HVAC/R instructors how to teach fiberglass duct construction and then work with them to provide the course materials, tools, and equipment needed to incorporate fiberglass duct construction into an on-going course curriculum.

NAIMA (at the direction of the Air Handling Committee) selected vocational schools based on code compliance issues, the location of vocational schools, and the quality of the school training personnel. Since 2005 NAIMA successfully incorporated fiberglass duct construction into 55+ vocational schools and currently maintains the needs of these programs through individual grant agreements. In addition, the industry-developed and approved training methods are now recommended by industry participants, recommended by utilities and contractor organizations, utilized by the individual duct board manufacturers, and, in many cases, the fabrication standards are specified to meet building codes.

Who is the training program for?
The training is for instructors who then add this course into their current HVAC technician training program and they then train their students.

Where do you get your educators?  
We get them from our own industry. Retirees and/or volunteers from duct board insulation manufacturers, like Johns Manville.

Are there other, similar programs for other industries (mechanical, industrial, home-building, etc)?  
Not that I know of and especially not one that is universally endorsed, embraced, and supported by all manufacturers.  Another thing that makes the NAIMA Duct Instruct program unique is that this has been successfully working for over 18 years to support a single product – fiberglass duct board.

Even in the fiberglass insulation industry our own industry there is no other training program like this with any other product.

Is it free?  
Yes.  NAIMA’s Air Handling Committee splits the annual costs for this each year and budgets for new school start ups, school maintenance, and instructor retraining.  We provide this training and related support free to the schools selected.

How do you find students for the program?
The schools find us, generally.  With industry budget cuts over the past 4 years, NAIMA’s focus has been to maintain the current programs that are in place.  If one school decides to withdraw from the NAIMA training, we will then pick up the donated equipment and tools and locate another school for a start up.  Selecting the schools is done with the help of the Air Handling Committee and the focus is to find schools that are in big duct board markets.  We always have a waiting list.  Too many schools – not enough in the budget.

In your opinion, what is the most valuable aspect of the training program? 
Once you are trained you can put these skills to work instantly!  The investment into the tools needed is minimal.  HVAC Mechanical or Contracting businesses who hire students who can work with both sheet metal and fiber glass duct board can bid on residential and light commercial mechanical system projects very differently.

If someone were to sign up to take the training, what can they expect the course to be like?  
The only way to ‘sign up’ is to be an instructor with the intention of adding this to the curriculum.  That said – instructors get 4 days of hands-on training.  It is intense, and it is fun.  How the instructors then creatively incorporate duct board fabrication into their own curriculum is up to them.  We do, however, supply each school with the duct board they need each time they teach the course, along with UL 181 A Tape, student manuals and NAIMA’s Fibrous Glass Duct Construction Standard.

In addition to supporting NAIMA’s Duct Instruct Program, Johns Manville also offers training and continuing education opportunities for contractors and engineers. We offer onsite technical presentations and duct board fabrication demonstrations, as well as monthly webinars that may be attended for professional development hours.