A skilled worker shortage in the United States is expected to be a continuing trend among most trades. HVAC was not left out of this striking statement. Employers across the industry struggled with how to hire, train, and retain qualified professionals. Looking to new labor pools, however, uncovered some snafus that HVAC wasn’t ready for.

Immigration hit a nerve this spring as thousands of legal and illegal immigrants staged the “Day Without Immigrants” demonstration, protesting proposed immigration laws. It is practically impossible to figure out how many immigrants are employed in the HVAC trade. According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction employed the greatest number of foreign-born workers in 2005 - about 2.5 million immigrants, or about one out of every eight who have a job in this industry. Construction also had among the highest concentrations of foreign-born workers - nearly 22 percent of the overall workforce.

Contractor liability became a question, as illegal immigrants were considered for labor pool replenishment. In a printed statement, Air Conditioning Contractors of America-Texas (ACCA-Texas) said it’s “keenly aware of the effect that laborers have in Texas, both legal and illegal in nature. Many creditable HVACR companies across the state use subcontracting firms to help with installations, and these firms may employ illegal immigrants, either on a full-time or part-time basis. As well, many companies may directly employ illegal immigrants involved in the HVACR industry here in Texas.”

“Personally, I don’t know of a single contractor who employs illegals willingly,” commented Lou Jennings, executive vice president, Metro Mechanical Inc., Phoenix. “There’s just too much liability from many aspects.”

Moving away from the immigration issue, the HVAC industry continued to search for shrinking labor pool replacements. Women emerged as one of the primary targets for recruiting efforts. Speaking at a conference in 2006, William F. Maloney, Ph.D, said that the male participation rate in the HVACR industry in general is dropping, while the female participation rate is increasing.

Maloney continued with his lecture discussing his research, citing that by the year 2020, the workforce by ethnic heritage will be 69 percent Caucasian, 14 percent Latino, 11 percent African-American, and 6 percent Asian. Publication date:12/25/2006