Fuel Oil News columnist Charlie Bursey was a co-winner, along with Paul Cuprewich, of the National Association of Oil & Energy Service Professionals’ prestigious Hugh McKee Award on May 29, 2013, during the association’s 60th Annual Convention and Trade Show.
The recipients are honored for making an outstanding contribution to the fuel oil industry; having had an understanding and cooperation with his/her fellowman; and having unselfishly aided the industry in education and related activities.
Bursey’s history more than qualifies him for the award. He began in the industry in 1963 working for an oil company in Jamestown R.I. as a technician after being discharged from the military. He attended several NEFI training programs and obtained his Rhode Island master pipe fitters, oil burner and refrigeration licenses. He moved up to work in service management for a number of companies. While working for Lehigh Oil Co., Norwich, Conn., he and four other oil company representatives established OESP’s Eastern CT Chapter. After leaving Lehigh, he began working for a manufacturer and is now with F.W. Webb, Warwick, R.I.
On the education/training front, he established a NORA certified training seminar that he took throughout the Northeast in addition to providing educational leadership for his local chapters. Bursey humbly noted that he feels honored to be the recipient of this year’s Hugh McKee Award.
‘I said to my wife sometime back what a nice thing it must be for guys to receive this award,” he said. We asked him a few questions about his time in the industry:
FON: What is the main challenge from the service and training perspective that the industry faces today?
Bursey: The main challenge I believe is to get more of the owners and service managers to accept the training programs. The owner should encourage the technicians to participate in the chapter meetings and association meetings because it gives them an opportunity to not only network within the industry, but in my chapter we always have a trainer in once a month. When I served as (chapter) president, one of the first things I said that I wanted to raise the bar in education and have the trainers not coming in to sell, but to educate people about the new technologies that their companies offer.
FON: If you’re a service technician or service manager how important is it to keep up with your education?
Bursey: I have an expression. In this industry you can either drive the bus or ride the bus and sooner or later if you do not strive to become the driver of the bus, if you do not participate in the training and keep up with the new technology and new controls and the other things these companies are producing, you will lose your value. If all I knew about was a 1720 oil burner that I worked on in 1963, I could not remain in this industry.
FON: What are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in the industry since you started?
Bursey: I have seen this industry become so much better to work in. As I’ve told people when I first started in the business, my title was ‘soot sucker.” The units that I worked on were dirty. Today the equipment is 87 percent or 90 percent efficient, and there is no smoke whatsoever. This is a clean industry.
And, I think that more and more of the companies today’the manufacturers in particular’have put a lot more emphasis on training than there was when I was coming up through the ranks. There are more opportunities. (And with the equipment) when I was putting in boilers many years ago, they were twice as large as they are today and they have become smaller and more efficient. The electronic control packages today are absolutely phenomenal with how they perform.
FON: What you feel in general about the industry today?
Bursey: I think that the industry can give you a good life. But, the industry has become ‘diluted” with the growth that has occurred in propane and natural gas. The technicians of the future have to be more multi-talented than ever. They have to be able to work on oil, gas and air conditioning among others in order to survive. You have to wear more than just one hat. Learn as much as you can about everything.