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Service Technician to State License Holder: A Food Equipment Career Journey

General Parts Group's Service Technician receiving his Oklahoma State Contractor License licensure
By – The Editor

Recently our Tulsa branch Manager Ken Williams obtained the Oklahoma state contractor license for which he is rightfully very proud. As a way of celebrating Ken’s success, I spent some time with Ken to learn about his career and the steps he took to arrive at this point. This is the conversation we had which I hope you will agree is an interesting journey that highlights that a front-line career in the foodservice equipment repair industry is not just a job, it is a rewarding career for those with passion and dedication.

How did you start your career?
I started my career in 1994 in Dayton, Ohio. I was in a trade school for heating, air, and refrigeration when a classmate told me about a company in Cincinnati that was hiring for a start-up branch in Dayton. I applied for the job as he did, but I got the job, and he did not. I felt bad for just a little bit. I continued with trade school at night and worked for the Certified Service Center during the day. This went on for nearly two months until I graduated from the trade school where I became EPA Universal certified.

How did your career progress at this point?
At my former employer, within two years, I became a field service supervisor and became a CFESA Master Technician by successfully passing all four of the disciplines, steam, gas, electric, and refrigeration. A trade license was not needed in Ohio at the time however, there was a competency assessment for brazing and soldering which I passed for my branch.

So, it looks like you’ve moved around quite a bit, how did you settle in Tulsa?
I continued service in the Ohio market until I was asked to start up Wichita, KS for the company and eventually asked to do the same in the Tulsa, OK market where I still reside today. Once I hit the ground running in Tulsa, I was asked to take the state journeyman’s exam which I did successfully pass to obtain my license.

Why did you move over to General Parts Group?
My former employer decided to go a different direction with the company of which they ended up selling and closing several branches of which mine was one of those and that is what lead me to General Parts Group. When I started with General Parts in November of 2014, there was not an immediate need for another technician in the Tulsa market however, there was a need in Oklahoma City. For the next year or so, I worked exclusively in the Oklahoma City market full-time while driving back and forth daily, making that trip, and even covering an on-call schedule. Oklahoma City is nearly two hours each way but to get the job done, that is what it took. I have maintained my journeyman’s license while being a tech in the field as well as keeping it up to date when I became Service Manager and what is now Branch Manager for Tulsa in April of 2018.

And you did not stop there, how did you end up taking the State Contactors License?

With all my experience in the service field, this led me to be asked to obtain the state contractor’s license for General Parts Group for the state of Oklahoma. It is no small task to prepare for and pass the exam but there was a need that needed to be met and so it was.

What was involved in the Exam?
The exam comprises of two parts, both of which must be passed. The first part is business law, and the second part relates to industry standards and trade knowledge. I took both parts in one day which took about 4 hours, it was a tough exam even having taken the one-day pre-course. The nice part is it’s an open book exam but……there are six books! With a 50% pass rate, I am proud to have qualified.

What do you see in your future?
I feel we now have a strong base to build upon here in Tulsa. With a shortage of experienced commercial kitchen equipment field service technicians in the workforce, we are poised to train new technicians not only in the GP practices but also in the field of repairing commercial kitchen equipment.