These days it seems that most every patriotic band and orchestra concert includes something called the “Armed Forces Salute” — a medley of songs affiliated with various branches of the U.S. military. As the song for each branch is played, audience members who have served, or are serving, in each military branch stand, and are recognized with enthusiastic applause.

This is the patriotic aspect of recognizing military veterans. The practical aspect is portrayed when employers step forward to specifically offer employment opportunities for veterans.

Across the HVACR industry, contractors and trade associations are welcoming veterans in an organized and conscientious way, with numerous success stories resulting from their efforts.

And, the way they tell it, it is not just out of patriotism that they are doing it, but because veterans bring with them an unmatched discipline and respect for authority.

One example of commitment to vets is with franchisor Aire Serv®. In mid-November, Mandy Bray, public relations specialist, The Dwyer Group, said, “Aire Serv is currently celebrating the one-year anniversary of Operating Enduring Opportunity, an initiative of the International Franchise Association (IFA). With a three-year goal of hiring or recruiting 75,000 veterans and military spouses as franchise owners, the IFA has announced that in one year it has hired more than 64,000 veterans, including 4,300 as franchise owners. Eight percent of the veterns, or approximately 5,120, were hired into the residential/home services category.

“Aire Serv is proud to be counted among these results. Since the initiative launched on Nov. 11, 2011, eight military veterans have joined Aire Serv’s ranks as franchise owners and 38 percent of its franchises have hired a veteran.”

IFA is not the only entity embracing vets. Helmets to Hardhats is a free, nonprofit program that connects transitioning military servicemembers with quality career opportunities in the construction industry. The program’s website states, “Acceptance into the building and construction trades is your first step to a great future. Careers in these trades enable you to earn while you learn and get rewarded for hard work. Being a member in the building and construction trades entitles you to competitive salaries with consistent raises, pension plans, excellent medical benefits, and flexibility when it comes to taking time off.”

Helmets to Hardhats said it provides an apprentice training program, and among those listed as supporting the organization’s initiatives are the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).

Chris Loudermilk, a franchise consultant for Aire Serv, said that patriotism does enter into the hiring picture, but a lot of it is practicality. “In franchises, for example, there are specific systems to follow and vets are good at that,” he said. “Plus they are lean, mean, fit, and clean shaven. That’s what Susie Homemaker wants. Vets can get it done and they work well with others.”

Loudermilk grew up in a military family and has served as director of military recruitment for The Dwyer Group’s family of brands. He noted that Aire Serv representatives travel to military bases, as well as career fairs, to recruit franchisees.

“We always speak about attitude and aptitude,” he said. “We can teach the latter, but first we have to have the former.”

Contractors Speak

Dusty Rhoades is owner of Aire Serv of Weld County in Greeley, Colo. He served in the military before opening the company in July 2008. He currently has two vets on his payroll. “I grew up without a father and was pretty wild. In the military, I learned discipline,” he said. “Overall, vets are disciplined enough to be on time — and look good in a uniform. The vets I hired seem to do a better job than I ever expected.”

Rhoades said that he does not formally seek out vets, but, while traveling, he said he recognizes nicely dressed individuals who carry themselves well, and might ask, “‘Did you serve in the military?’ If so, I might add, ‘Hey, if you are looking for a job, give me a call.’”

Ed Bartram, owner of Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Diversified Heating & Cooling Inc., which was founded in 1987, said he’s always looking for qualified people who are businesslike and show respect.

“In my experience, veterans have gone through training, seem to have respect for elders, listen to customers, and are willing to keep up on their education,” said Bartram, a member of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA).

Another ACCA member, Brian Holt, president, Mast Heating & Cooling, Zeeland, Mich., said there is no written policy regarding the hiring of vets within his 56-year-old company, “But we look for common sense and discipline,” he said. “We are service-based and we want to know how we can serve others. By the nature of their serving their country, a stint with the military is a benefit.”

The issue of such factors as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for those leaving the service, especially those who served in combat, did not appear to be a significant issue for HVACR contractors, even beyond those interviewed for this story.

Loudermilk said, in his working with a large contractor base, he was not aware of issues related to PTSD, or any other challenges. Contractors interviewed did note drug-testing requirements for employment in their company and issues related to use of prescription drugs are dealt with internally.


Another apparent nonstarter is incentives for hiring veterans. One of those was HR 674, signed into law Nov. 21, 2011. The bill offers tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans. As with most legislation, the matter can get mixed up in extensions and funding issues.

But, as Loudermilk noted, “Most of the contractors I work with who hire veterans consider finding a good technician the only incentive. And that is often what they find with military veterans.”

Publication date: 1/28/2013