Empowering Underemployed Youth: TCI and Interplay Learning Join Forces for a Brighter Future

Team members from temperature controlled institute who have paired with Interplay Learning to help underemployed youth

In a world where meaningful career opportunities can seem out of reach for many, organizations like the Temperature Control Institute (TCI) are actively working to change things. 

Unleashing the Potential of Underemployed Youth

TCI, the only African American accredited HVAC training center in the Mid-South area, led by the dedicated and inspirational Edward York, has partnered with Interplay Learning to open doors for underemployed youth. By leveraging the latest in training technology, Ed is creating pathways to fulfilling careers in HVAC and other in-demand skilled trades for those who need it most.

More than just a state-of-the-art HVAC training school, TCI serves as a beacon of hope for the underemployed community of Memphis, Tennessee, including those newly released from correctional facilities in need of a second chance. Offering viable alternatives to crime and running the streets, TCI provides a six-month apprenticeship program that prepares individuals to become certified HVAC technicians ready to enter the workforce. 

Edward York: A Visionary Leader

Edward York, the driving force behind TCI, brings a wealth of industry experience as a former lead instructor and contractor with over 20 years of experience. His vision to provide real-world training experiences led him to open a trade school. York’s passion for empowering youth and giving them the skills to become productive citizens is a cause close to his heart. 

Having experienced struggles with his son going down the wrong path, Ed understands the transformative power of second chances and has garnered support from local churches, the community, and state resources to see his vision through. Ed explains, “As opposed to returning to the environment that they were in and finding themselves in trouble again, we’re able to provide them with a skillset, so when they return to society, they are equipped to go to work, pay taxes and become productive citizens.”

Interplay Learning’s Cutting-Edge Training Solutions

Interplay Learning’s virtual reality (VR) and 3D training have revolutionized how apprentices learn and master HVAC troubleshooting skills. TCI has integrated Interplay’s training into its HVAC and Commercial Refrigeration curriculum, allowing students to practice and refine their skills in a safe, immersive, virtual environment in their dedicated VR lab before heading out to do fieldwork on job sites. 

The program ensures tech-savvy students remain engaged and motivated throughout their foundational training, setting them up for long-term success. With certifications such as EPA 608, OSHA 10, and NATE, students can specialize in their chosen concentration, enhancing their job prospects upon graduation. 

“Most of our students are Gen-Z, and they’re more likely to study when they have access to this kind of fun technology. It’s just been working excellently for us. We have guys coming in on the weekends to do VR coursework, and they’re even bringing their kids to use it too! It’s very heartwarming to see the difference we’re making.”

A Vital Support System

Interplay Learning is a key ally to TCI, offering a comprehensive training platform allowing students to access training materials conveniently. The freedom to direct their own learning and delve deeper into areas of interest, with Interplay as an instructor’s assistant, has been instrumental in TCI’s success.

Not only does this partnership excite and engage the next generation of technicians, but it also helps with recruitment efforts and attracts more funding for the program. School counselors, directors, and educators are impressed with the quality of training and its ability to produce skilled technicians.

The Transformative Impact

The impact of TCI and Interplay Learning’s collaboration is evident in their students’ success stories. By providing accessible training and boosting their confidence, TCI and Interplay Learning have transformed the lives of individuals who may have once felt trapped by limited opportunities. To date, all graduates who have started TCI’s program have graduated and gone on to work in the field. These are some of their stories.

Darius’s Story

Having experienced multiple encounters with the correctional system, Darius was given various job training options as part of his probation. It was Interplay’s VR learning experience through the Quest headset that captured his imagination and ignited a passion for the skilled trades. 

The engaging and practical nature of VR training kept him focused and enabled him to acquire job-ready skills. Darius’s enthusiasm for the VR simulations was so strong that he involved his son in training activities during off-hours, creating a memorable bonding experience. After completing the program, Darius embarked on a career in the HVAC field. 

Today, he has achieved homeownership and gained custody of his son. His newfound knowledge and skills extend beyond HVAC systems, as he now applies what he learned to fix and sell cars, particularly their cooling systems. Darius’s life has been utterly transformed, showcasing the incredible impact TCI and Interplay Learning can have on individuals seeking a second chance.

Ed’s Son, Josh 

Despite a troubled past and associating with the wrong crowd, Ed tried to steer his son toward a career in the HVAC trade without success. However, everything changed when his son was introduced to HVAC in VR.

The hands-on experience of learning through VR simulations resonated with him and made the learning process enjoyable rather than burdensome. As he immersed himself in the simulations, he became more engaged and motivated to learn. The positive impact was evident in his behavior change—he started spending more time at home, focusing on the learning modules instead of getting into trouble on the streets.

After completing his training, his son embarked on a career with one of the top refrigeration companies in the city. The transformation was remarkable—his circle of friends changed, he steered clear of trouble, and he succeeded in his chosen field. Inspired by his journey, he now gives back by working at TCI, helping others through similar challenges, and showing them that they, too, can transform their lives.

His passion for the VR lab led him to take on a role in running it and assisting in training new students. This full-circle journey has brought immense pride and gratitude to Ed, who once felt sorrowful and frustrated. He attributes a significant portion of his son’s positive life change to the effectiveness of VR as a learning tool.

Ed’s son’s story exemplifies the transformative impact of VR training and the importance of supportive mentors like Ed. It serves as a powerful reminder that with the right tools, guidance, and dedication, individuals can break free from negative cycles and achieve meaningful success in their lives.

Looking Ahead: Expansion and Opportunities

TCI’s success has caught the attention of local companies eager to hire their graduates. As TCI prepares to open a larger facility in Memphis, offering commercial HVAC, plumbing, and electrical training, the list of companies seeking to employ their students grows. Through social media ads, partnerships with churches and community organizations, and collaboration with the chamber of commerce, TCI aims to attract more students and further expand its impact. 

TCI has also attracted the attention of Meta, who recently invited Ed and his son Josh to attend their Future of Work conference to speak on the innovative ways they are using VR to train the technical workforce. 

Under Ed’sleadership, the future of TCI is looking even brighter as he aims to grow and open additional facilities in Memphis, expanding its offerings to include plumbing and building maintenance.

What could your students gain by having access to immersive learning activities? Could your program benefit from online, on-demand skilled trades courses that bring field-like, 3D simulations, and virtual reality to learners’ fingertips? Interplay Learning offers 300+ hours of online expert-led instruction and hands-on simulations that help bridge the gap between classroom instruction and real-world scenarios. Learn how you can enhance your curriculum by incorporating simulations in your classroom.


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