Last week, I was in the Houston area visiting with a few people who were talking about some crazy stuff, too; it all came down to this - finding more people for the industry to continue to prosper. That sounded like a familiar strain, and made me realize that nearly everywhere I go, and with nearly everyone I talk to, the same topic always comes up - attracting young people into this industry. It’s a top priority for everyone.
Richard Cook, president and COO of Johnson Supply, a 58-year-old distributing company based in Houston with 23 locations throughout Texas and Louisiana, said, “The biggest issue facing the local markets we serve is, simply, people.” And, when asked what the single biggest personal challenge was that he faced in running Johnson Supply, again, his answer was “people.”
Having enough people seems to be a key limiting factor for the growth of this industry.
Dave Swift, president and CEO of Goodman Global Inc., one of the largest air conditioning and heating manufacturers in the world, is a member of an industry committee challenged with attracting new people into the industry. He said that recruitment is still the No. 1 issue facing every channel of the HVACR industry, from contracting to distribution to manufacturing.
I have become aware of some tremendous efforts being made in preparing people for this business.
Recruitment is still the No. 1 issue facing every channel of the HVACR industry.
EDUCATORSDave Morgan, an instructor with Lorain County Joint Vocational School (JVS) in Oberlin, Ohio, one of the finest career technical training facilities in the state, took several junior and senior high school students to the 2011 Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition in Las Vegas, to show them the scope of this industry. He later invited The NEWS to witness a skills competition (SkillsUSA Ohio Regional Challenge) in North Canton, Ohio, among students from six area high schools. It was one impressive display of young talent. Local winners moved from there to a SkillsUSA state competition in late April. Winners at that level progress to the National Skills USA competition in Kansas City, Mo., June 19–24.
CONTRACTORSThe Akron/Canton Ohio Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) has sponsored the SkillsUSA Ohio Regional Challenge since about 2002. Doug Carpenter, a local contractor who chaired the 2011 Regional Challenge, said, “Four out of the last five years an Akron student went all the way through to the National SkillsUSA competition. That is because we work very closely with the schools throughout the year, helping to ensure that what is being taught and learned is also what’s applicable in the real world.” Carpenter and Bruce Beckwith, president of the Akron-ACCA Chapter, both want to hire young people and are finding ways to make sure those people are excited about the HVACR industry. A tip of the hat to them.
ASSOCIATIONSThe Student Chapter Competition of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) is the premier event for college students. Student teams compete to come up with the best project bid proposal while demonstrating their knowledge of mechanical systems. After months of hard work, the top four teams square off at the MCAA annual convention, on stage, before an audience of hundreds of mechanical contractors. Another tip of the hat.
From high schools to colleges, there are some wonderful partnerships between academia and industry. What is lacking is a more centralized approach to get young people - very young people - interested in sitting in one of those HVACR classrooms. Once students are interested in the available programs, there is some pretty amazing talent coming into the ranks. The challenge is in how to get freshmen and sophomores in high school to begin thinking about the next level.
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Publication date: 05/02/2011