September — late August for some — is the time when young kids, teenagers and college students head back to classes for another year of learning. Some are excited about sharing experiences with friends such as a new school, new teachers and new subjects, while others are dreading another year of homework and tests.

In my case, I love reading and learning but I don’t like tests. Homework is necessary to learning, but usually not a fun exercise. OK, except for when my parents took my sister and I out of school for a week in October (“We’re going to Disney World!”). My 6th grade teacher gave me some interesting projects to do while I was gone — such as collecting Spanish moss to take back to class.

Our family went on vacation at least once a year. We traveled to a lot of fun places, but Dad made sure we had an educational experience, too. That trip to Florida? Along with visiting Winnie the Pooh, we stopped at Cape Canaveral to learn about NASA and the space program. We made two trips to Washington, D.C. — once with our Finnish exchange student — and toured the White House, sat in on a debate at the Capitol and spent time at the Smithsonian museums.

Whether it’s the politics behind the Civil War, how the human body works, the extraordinary risks taken to create and preserve this country, exploring and understanding space or being exposed to the works of a classic author — I learned something from every class and every vacation.

After moving from Michigan to Chicago to start my journalism career, I learned more things: how to ride the A and B trains on the El; winter parking etiquette; where to find the best deep-dish pizza; and how to deal with millions of people of many different nationalities in a city millions times larger than my hometown.

And I’ve learned new things throughout each step in my career, including better writing and editing techniques, better listening skills and how to use ever-changing technology to do my job more effectively.

We never stop learning.

That’s certainly true when it comes to plumbing and hydronic heating. The industry has seen many new products, technologies and installation techniques since I started as an associate editor at Supply House Times in 1998.

September marks the start of the fall convention season. This month, plumbing and mechanical contractors can attend the Radiant Professional Alliance and Quality Service Contractors meetings in Nashville, Tenn.; the Nexstar Super Meeting in Phoenix; and the National Association of Oil Heating and Energy Professionals’ Road Show in Gettysburg, Pa. In October, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association will meet in New Orleans; the city also will host Greenbuild in November.

January starts the “spring” cycle with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show/International Builder’s Show in Las Vegas, and the AHR Expo and RPA meeting in Chicago. These are followed by the February Pumper Cleaner Show (Indianapolis) and the spring QSC meeting (Scottsdale, Ariz.). In March is the Mechanical Contractors Association of America convention in Hawaii and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America/Radiant & Hydronics Council convention in Texas.

Each of these meetings, conventions and trade shows brings the opportunity to learn. Do you need to beef up your marketing? There’s a class for that. How about recruiting and hiring new workers? There’s a workshop for that. Are you interested in industry trends and what your customers may be buying? There’s a seminar for that.

Do you want to get your technicians updated on the latest industry technologies? There’s a training course for that. In addition to the groups previously mentioned, many manufacturers offer factory and on-site training for their products and systems.

Have you considered elearning? A plethora of industry-related online courses are available for you, your management team, your field techs and office staff. Some are at specified times, some are on-demand to watch at your convenience.

We also can learn from our friends and colleagues in the industry. Networking is a key benefit to industry events. Not only will you gain valuable information to implement in your business, you may gain a new mentor or friend.

Learning is a continous process in our personal and professional lives. Whether you attend a convention, stroll a trade show floor or watch a webinar, take advantage of what the plumbing, piping and mechanical industry has to offer you in learning experiences.

And don’t forget to learn how to implement what you learned.