ESCONDIDO — Inside a new classroom and student laboratory at the Palomar College Escondido Education Center, dozens of students are learning how to maintain and troubleshoot the complex—and increasingly high-tech—systems that keep people comfortable every day.

Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration is Palomar’s newest career education program, and it aims to provide students with the skills they need to enter a thriving job market as soon as possible. Certificate options start with a “workforce ready” endorsement that requires students to take four classes, potentially in as little as one semester.

“Every building and every home has at least a refrigerator and an air conditioner,” said Ed Kirk, one of the program instructors, who has 45 years of experience in the trade. “It’s a large job market out there. And it’s wide open. Talking to contractors, one comment I get pretty regularly is that they can’t grow their business because they can’t find enough technicians to do the work.”

The program includes four classes covering mechanical, electrical, heating and air conditioning systems. The new classroom and state-of-the-art lab are in adjoining rooms, and are outfitted with the latest technology for students to develop cutting-edge skill sets.

“Demand is really quite high, because there’s very little training out there,” said Kirk. “And these are transferable skills—you learn electrical systems, automation, and controls involving computers.”