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How You Gonna Keep ’Em Down on the Farm?

January 12, 2001
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Climates vary, as do local codes, regulations, and economies. One area may be in the throes of a mini-recession, another is flush with work, and in a third, independent and consolidated contractors are duking it out. However, contractors across the United States share a common problem.

There aren’t enough qualified technicians.

This week’s issue of The News features regional reports from around the United States. (Coverage begins on page 41.) After reading each report, it is once again clear that keeping a steady supply of technicians is the main concern for contractors large and small, no matter the market and no matter the climate. Of almost equal concern (at least, it should be of equal concern) is the need to keep top techs happy where they are: in your company.



Cozy and Warm

OK, we’ve been over this before. Pay is important, but maybe not as important as quality of life. So you find a great tech, pay him/her reasonably, guarantee work year ’round, and all your techs work in shifts so that no one person is stuck on-call all the time.

“What’s the deal?” you wonder. “I would’ve loved to work in a place like this when I was doing service.”

You think you would have loved it, but realistically, would you have stayed there? What kind of place would you want your son or daughter to work at?

The best companies in any profession offer their employees two things: respect and education.

Respect is hard to quantify, and it takes many forms. There’s respect for family life, as reflected in hours and flexibility; professional respect, as reflected in wages and benefits; and professional respect, reflected in making sure the work is done right, allowing technicians to take pride in what they do best.

A big part of being allowed to work to the best of their abilities involves keeping up-to-date on equipment and methods. Many contractors say, “That sounds fine, but who is going to pay for it?”

Well, the automakers will pay for it, but only if your technician will change careers and work for them. Your larger competitor, the utility, may also pay for it — if the technician will work for them. Your technician may pay for it himself, but may also feel free to leave with it.

No matter what happens, the contractor pays for it. So you can either pay up front, or pay tenfold down the road.



No Plugs, Either

Now, where can contractors and technicians go to see the newest equipment, make a manufacturer ’fess up to a design flaw, go to some equipment seminars, and cap off the day with a few drinks?

Atlanta?

Well, this year, at least. The Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta is the home of this year’s International Air-Condi-tioning, Heating, Refrigerating (AHR) Exposition.

I have an obvious bias towards the AHR Expo. I’ve been going to it for years, and not only is the new equipment cool to look at, I even understand what they’re talking about in ASHRAE meetings. It was a shock the first time it happened, believe me. But there’s real enjoyment in learning new things. It keeps “just a job” fresher and more interesting.

OK, there’s a small plug here, but not for the Expo, per se. It’s for taking the time to send your best techs (and maybe that new guy, too) to an industry event of this nature.

Go to the training sessions. The expo has some this year, in addition to ASHRAE sessions, more targeted to contractors (see page 18). Look at the new equipment and tools. Play with the computers.

Maybe your techs will want to come back next year — with you.

Checket-Hanks is service/maintenance and troubleshooting editor. She can be reached at 313-368-5856; 313-368-5957 (fax); checket-hanksb@bnp.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 01/15/2001

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