Mike Weil, VP Communications, National Comfort Institute, Inc.

Mike Weil

As I write this column, the temperatures here in Cleveland are beginning to soar and the busiest season of the year for most contractors is upon us. It also is that time of year where contractors struggle to have enough good HVAC technicians on staff to handle the increased load and keep customers satisfied.

Early in my career, I wrote my first feature story in another HVAC trade magazine. It was in 1984 and focused on a burgeoning commercial retrofit market that needed a pool of talented technicians to handle the growing workload. That pool was nearly empty.

In the 34 years since printing that article, not much has changed.

Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), estimated the current HVAC technician shortage at around 70,000. They also predicted a need for 115,000 new HVACR professionals to meet demand within the next four years!

Also, according to a joint industry survey conducted by Sage and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), though many companies see a growing demand, their optimism is tainted by increasing concerns about workforce shortages.

So What is Going On?

Let’s start with the age of our field workforce. Today, according to BLS, 72% of them are between the ages of 22 and 55, with the bulk of those in the Baby Boomer set — closing in on the 50-year mark. That means more technicians will be retiring at a faster rate as time goes on.

So where are the young people?

Consider this: because of a lack of Federal and State support for HVAC (or any trade) education, high schoolers continue to be steered toward college degrees by counselors. There is very little promotion of the trades for these youngsters. Our own industry does a poor job of self-promotion.

Where have all the young people gone? They’re out there. Your Performance-Based culture will help reel them in.

Furthermore, when you do a Google search for HVAC careers, what comes up first are a lot of unsatisfactory summaries that paint our industry as low-paying construction jobs requiring long hours, cramped conditions, and adherence to confusing codes and regulations.

It doesn’t help that the news media loves a good contractor sting story to further blacken our collective eye. Very little coverage is given to the positives this industry provides society.

But there should be.

Be Proud – HVAC Is Vital to America

The HVAC Industry is vital to this nation. Our technology and services enable Americans to live and work in temperature-hostile environments like the Southwest. Our industry keeps food supplies and medicines fresh so they last longer. We help save lives by eliminating combustion issues that lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Oh yeah — the HVAC Industry contributes heavily to overall productivity.

So how can you find needed young people to work for your company? Read our Panel Discussion on page 16 and see how Performance-Based Contractors are doing it.

Don’t understand how performance can be your ticket to more young people? Read Dominick Guarino’s article on page 21 that defines what performance is and why it benefits your company and your customers.

Where have all the young people gone? They’re out there. Your Performance-Based culture will help reel them in.

Have a great, profitable summer.