Summer is here and school is out, but that doesn’t mean the education of HVACR technicians has ended. In fact, their education has likely been going on all year and will continue throughout the summer as professionals educate rookies to veterans about the basics and advanced principles of HVACR.

These educators are the ones who stand in the generational gap to not only help the HVACR recruiting effort but to also help bring HVACR training to the next level. To assist them in accomplishing their goals, educators are taking the time to invest in their own education, and this spring over 500 of them met in Las Vegas to do just that at the National HVAC Excellence Educators & Trainers Conference. 

Making a Way

Getting to Las Vegas is not that difficult, but according to HVAC Excellence, the many budget cuts at the federal and state level to vocational training left many HVACR programs financially strained and in need of industry support. Despite the cuts, instructors from across the nation made a way to attend the conference held at the South Point Hotel, Las Vegas.

HVAC Excellence dubbed this event a train-the-trainer boot camp that offered nearly 40 educational sessions and almost 80 exhibits tailored to the needs of educators and trainers. Combined with daily meals, awards, high-level speakers, and special events, the overall event gave attendees the ability to learn and network for almost 12 hours each day. 

Courses like “Death by PowerPoint” and “How to Teach Heat Load Calculations (Without Putting Your Students to Sleep)” were a few of the titles that caught instructors’ attention. When not in class, attendees spent time perusing education exhibits that offered new tools, curriculum, and hands-on experiences for their classrooms. Because of the budget cuts previously mentioned, attending the conference was potentially a financial sacrifice as some attendees had to pay their own way to the conference.

“Attendees paid their own way knowing that a program is only as good as the instructor in front of the classroom,” said Howard Weiss, marketing director for HVAC Excellence and its affiliates of the ESCO Group. “This is a testament to the dedication of the educators we have in the HVACR industry and their commitment towards making their students succeed.”

At one of the booths, an instructor spent the last of his small classroom budget on a new workbook and education curriculum set for his classroom. Another instructor came along and told the gentleman how great this system was and that he would be pleased with it. The instructor replied, “I hope so, because I just spent the rest of the money I have for the year, and it is only March.”

Also during the expo, what many considered a momentous book signing occurred as Bill Whitman, Bill Johnson, John Tomczyk, and Eugene Silberstein signed copies of their newly-released seventh edition of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technology. It was said that these four co-authors had not appeared together for a decade.

General sessions during meals brought all the attendees together as they witnessed the passing out of multiple awards, inspiring speeches, and educational presentations from speakers such as Steven Allen, executive director of the Green Mechanical Council; Patti Ellingson, president of Women in HVACR, and Richard Holden, regional commissioner, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Now Hiring

Besides the knowledge from the education sessions and the experience and materials from the expo, instructors took home a handful of recruiting facts from special speaker Holden.

During his presentation, Holden broke down some of the “National Employment Outlook to the Year 2020” report from the BLS and specifically discussed the implications to the HVACR industry. He cited six major factors affecting HVACR employment — energy costs, policy initiatives, building stock, replacement demand, completers, and regional differences.

Energy costs were on the top of the list along with policy initiatives such as greenhouse gas initiatives and natural gas demand. Referencing a U.S. Energy Information Administration report, Holden noted that residential energy prices between 2008 and 2035 were projected to continue their upward climb for electricity, natural gas, distillate fuel oil, and liquefied petroleum gas. These energy price increases combined with the age of homes and other factors is helping push HVACR employment into one of the faster growing job categories that was studied.

“HVACR employment from 2010-2020 is projected to increase approximately 33.7 percent as compared to the total, all occupations increase over the same time of 14.3 percent,” said Holden. “By the time 2020 comes, there should be about 358,000 more HVACR jobs available.”

The report stated that when it comes to HVAC mechanics and installers, 65.6 percent of the projected growth will be due to new job openings from industry growth and 34.4 percent of the job openings will be due to the need for replacements.

The retiring baby boomer issue further revealed itself when looking at these same numbers for all occupations. Those numbers show that 37.4 percent of the projected growth will come from job openings due to growth and 62.6 percent will come due to the need for replacements.

“Being that HVACR service and installation jobs cannot be outsourced or automated, these numbers show that the HVACR industry offers tremendous job opportunities for persons not yet entering the workforce,” said Weiss. “This is great information to share with your local high school guidance counselors.”

Getting Paid

Besides the availability and continued growth in availability of HVACR jobs, the BLS report also showed the profitability of investing in becoming an HVACR technician. Depending on the region of the country as well as the level of education and experience, HVACR technicians can make anywhere from $22,650 to $57,960 according to the BLS. The top five paying states for this job category were Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Their annual wages trended between $53,900 and $57,960. That translates into $25 to almost $28 per hour. States with the highest employment levels included Texas, Florida, California, New York, and Pennsylvania. These states’ annual mean wage ranged from $39,320 to $52,210.

Where do the educators come into the financial equation of new HVACR technicians? In the same BLS occupation report from Holden, there was a slide showing educational attainment for workers 25 years and older in 2009. For all occupations measured, 30.2 percent had some college or an associate’s degree; for the HVACR technicians that same category number was 39.3 percent. The disparity comes when the level of bachelor’s degree or higher is reached. For all occupations, the number of those who have achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher is 33.1 percent; but for HVACR technicians that number is only 4.9 percent.

Understanding that two years can well educate an HVACR technician to begin his or her new career, some may wonder why bring these numbers into the discussion of a new recruit’s payday. The answer is found in one of Holden’s final slides. According to the BLS — for all occupations — those who held a bachelor’s degree and higher made more money and were less likely to be unemployed. When brought into the equation of a new student or a continuing education student, these findings can sound less like statistical droning and more like career success.

By the end of the presentation, many of the attendees at the National HVAC Excellence Educators & Trainers Conference left with ammunition to not only enhance their current offerings, but to also encourage their students currently in class as well as the generations to come.

For more information or to sign up for next year’s conference, visit

Publication date: 6/25/2012