In March 2022, “One More Thing” column was about our shortage of HVAC technicians. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the current rate of employment in HVAC, we are inching closer to only having one in two technician slots filled by 2027 – four short years away! As an industry, we must work together to not just stem that tide, but reverse it — ASAP.
So where is everyone? Some are living in their parents’ basements trying to figure out if they really ever want to work again. Others have joined the “Gig” economy, basically selling their time. This includes ride-share driving, providing day labor, subcontracting, and trying any other way they can to make a living outside of a traditional job.
Overcoming The Stigma
The HVAC industry and other trades are feeling the pinch more that other service industries. Why? The trades are saddled with the stigma of being where kids who aren’t college material end up. The trades are viewed as dead-end low-paying jobs.
However, a closer look, shows that nothing is further from the truth. We have a growing, thriving industry filled with opportunities, whether people want to work with their hands, like to be challenged by cutting edge technologies, or really enjoy helping customers make their homes as safe, healthy, comfortable, and energy efficient as possible.
In comparison to other service industries, HVAC pays quite well. Many technicians can grow to make six figures and have a lifestyle that often exceeds that of a college graduate.
So how do we get across how different HVAC service is from the stereotype that has plagued us for decades? We must start promoting ourselves as an industry of well-paid professional craftsmen, not tradesmen.
Paint A Picture
One of the best ways to make your company stand out is by showing them you are a High-Performance HVAC organization, and what that means for your employees and your customers.
For starters, paint a picture of what a day in the life of a service tech, comfort advisor, or installer looks like working for a company with a High-Performance culture. You must show them how you are different. Also show how there are clear paths for advancement within your organization.
To attract Gen Z’s and Millennials, you also need to structure your company so it can accommodate varying life-work balances. I’m not suggesting you coddle employees. Just the opposite: find out what motivates a prospective hire, and make the position work for both of you with clear, written expectations.
A Different Pond
A contractor recently shared with me that he rarely hires talent from other companies, and candidates fresh out of trade school typically have to be retrained.
Instead he “grows his own,” and takes advantage of every opportunity to look for talent outside our industry. His favorites include car dealerships, both in the showroom and the shop, and other in-home service companies.
The bottom line is we have to learn to “fish in different ponds” HVAC can be taught. Other attributes like a great attitude and people skills are harder to teach, often impossible.
In the book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins emphasizes the importance of getting the right people on the bus. When you have the right people, you can always figure out the best seats for them on the bus. Let’s be more open-minded as we look for the right people on our buses.