If you believe industry statistics, the future is very bright for people interested in careers as HVAC techs and installers. If you believe in the current state of the economy, then optimism for continued growth in these careers is tempered. Or you might be somewhere in the middle.
These different viewpoints form the basis of what HVAC contractors are looking at as the summer 2011 hiring season heats up - or maybe in this case, cools down.
On the one hand, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics is optimistic about hiring trends. The department published this outlook at its website: “Employment of heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to increase 28 percent during the 2008-18 decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.”
The report goes on to say, “As the population and stock of buildings grows, so does the demand for residential, commercial, and industrial climate-control systems. Residential HVACR systems generally need replacement after 10-15 years; the large number of homes built in recent years will enter this replacement timeframe by 2018. The increased complexity of HVACR systems, which increases the possibility that equipment may malfunction, also will create opportunities for service technicians.”
Does this optimistic outlook carry over into the real world? According to a small sampling of 53 HVAC contractors in a poll at Linkedin.com, there is a lot of optimism. A total of 57 percent said they were hiring this summer and another 23 percent said they were maintaining current levels.
Some contractors are having a good year and plan to grow with new workers. “We have grown consistently and substantially each and every year in both sales and profits. We see 2011 as another winning year for our team,” said Wesley Holm of Thompson Plumbing, Heating & Cooling. “Our staffing requirements are budget driven and not weather driven.”
“While we plan to add a few employees, it is mainly because we have run extremely lean during our mild Gulf Coast ‘winter,’ and our industrial work has picked up requiring two helpers and a technician,” said G. Andrew Smith of AireServ of Southeast Texas. “Residentially, we plan for increased business - and the residential tech doing maintenance during the winter at the plants will be available for additional residential calls.”
One contractor is growing, but taking it cautiously. “We are hiring technicians and office professionals to include sales representatives and engineers,” said Jeff Somers of Monsen Engineering. “We will be doing this at a very controlled rate as business returns to the industry.”
REACTING STATISTICSOther HVAC contractors toldThe NEWSthat there is plenty of reason to believe in the increased demand for HVAC techs and installers.
“There is already a higher demand than supply for techs,” said Mark Noremberg of Air Comfort of Kentucky. “The high schools all push students to go to college, which is tied to federal funding, so there is not much activity at the trade schools. Also, school districts in our area have very few or no programs for HVAC. More homes in our area are going to have central systems installed as time goes on.”
Ray Isaac of Isaac Heating & Cooling said his company has experienced the best two years in its history - and for a good reason. “My belief is that our industry is an essential necessity, regardless of the economy, and if you have positioned yourself as a solid, professional, recognizable, quality, profitable, financially sound, etc., etc., etc. business, you can outgrow your competition, especially in down economies. The hard part is that the work and preparation comes before the opportunity and is a business model, not a campaign or initiative. We hired 40 people in the past year, and we expect that to continue again this year.”
Paul Sammataro of Samm’s Heating and Air Conditioning said the optimistic labor statistics are tempered by the age-old problem of making HVAC a desirable career. “What I see is there are more young people that would rather point and click than get their hands dirty,” he said. “Unemployment has put more bodies on the street and tends to make people look at other opportunities like HVAC trades.
“There are quality people out there to be employed but they are few and far between. That has been an issue for years in this industry as we all experience. It has been far too long that young people have been preached college is the answer. The fact is, great careers can be established in this trade.”
IT'S NOT ALL ROSYWhile optimism is still the flavor of the month, there are still some contractors who see the current economy as a true firewall to hiring more workers and expanding in 2011. Danny Strong of D&D Services is one of them.
“I don’t see the growth coming that some are optimistic about,” he said. “My commercial business is slowing down and payment times are being stretched farther now, up to 90 to 120 days. We only do work for larger companies, and they are pushing planned projects into the future.”
“I think they [Department of Labor] are assuming the housing market will make a comeback and all the people who lost their jobs will be replaced,” said Bill Bradley of Airtronic. “I trust the government’s opinion on the job market to be about as accurate as depending on what my horoscope says in the paper.”
Bob Haak of Black-Haak Heating is having a very good year and is hiring more workers. But he knows his good fortune does not spread over the entire industry. “With all the issues in Libya, Japan, and our government, people are extremely unsure if they should repair or replace or even do maintenance on their equipment. Up until now we have been very fortunate to be able to keep all 20 working full schedules.”
One contractor is keeping a level head about job growth, demand, and the economy. “A better economy means more demand, so certainly there is an impact,” said Steve Saunders of Tempo Mechanical. “But, the worse the economy, the more demand for repair versus replacement. Regardless of the economy, the load on the aging mechanical system infrastructure will increase and there will be no let up during peak seasons. We will see the impact of poor economy hitting off peak maintenance and repair work.
“But, other than that, the trends look inevitable. The current catch phrase is ‘demographics equal destiny.’ I think demographics will show increased demand - likely the statistics are accurate.”
For a copy of the Labor Statistics report, visit www.bls.gov/oco/pdf/ocos192.pdf.