For many decades the HVAC Industry has suffered from a low inflow of new people into its ranks. That problem has become even more acute due to the increase in contractor and technician retirements as the HVAC workforce ages. So many articles have been written on this subject, with so many calls for a renewed industry-wide focus on the problem. Yet the issue persists.

Many contractors turn to their local trade schools and career centers to recruit students for their HVAC businesses. Over the years, many have complained that the best students graduating from these schools are often hired outside the industry’s contracting segment by manufacturers, facilities management firms, hospitals, distributors, and so on.

The “leftovers,” I’ve heard contractors say, often aren’t well equipped to do the contractors any good, especially if hired for the busy summer season.

And yet, from the trade schools’ perspective, there is a different story. One school in particular, The Polaris Career Center in Middleburg Heights, OH, is an example of a first-rate technical school with a robust HVACR program.

Their modus operandi is to maintain strong relationships within the HVACR industry throughout Northeastern Ohio.

Cleveland, Ohio's Polaris Career Center

According to Rick Reitz, Polaris’ HVACR program instructor, the secret sauce is having contractors working with the school in a proactive manner rather than waiting for graduating students to approach them.

Some Background

According to Reitz, Polaris opened its doors in 1975. From inception, the school had an HVAC program that works with six local high school districts and adult learners from across Northeastern Ohio. In 2019 Polaris completed a nearly $60 million renovation of its facility, which occupies 257,000 sq. ft. of space on 47 acres of land. These renovations included complete updates to the HVACR labs and classrooms with new equipment and technology.

But the focus is on how to get young people interested in careers in the trades.

“Beginning in the eighth grade, students are invited to tour our facility to get familiar with our career-technical programs,” says Doug Miller, the school’s director of community outreach.

“They also begin to explore the idea of Polaris, and then, as they get into ninth and tenth grade, they see what we have to offer and discover that many of our programs provide access to college credit and industry credentials. This opens their eyes. Their parents love what they see too, and they love what we offer.”

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