The future workforce for the HVAC industry can be seen as both promising and incredibly uncertain. There are a bevy of educational programs, scholarship opportunities, and quality instructors across the country ready to properly teach the next generation and prepare them for lengthy careers. However, a harsh reality must also be acknowledged in the relative “skills gap” that exists and has been documented at length.
According to a 2014 Manpower Group global talent shortage survey, 40 percent of U.S. employers reported difficulty filling jobs, and 36 percent of international employers experienced difficulty filling jobs.
According to the Nexstar Network — a contracting organization boasting more than 500 residential plumbing, HVAC, and electrical contractors — 88 percent of its members are experiencing difficulty filling skilled trades positions.
One manufacturer, Shurtape Technologies LLC, a producer of HVAC tapes, is combating the skills gap with a scholarship program that helps students with the burden of financing their education and instructs them through a series of HVAC courses.
“Skilled trades, including the HVAC field, face a worrisome future as many skilled workers will be retiring over the next few years, leaving a void of technicians. Trade school can be expensive, but it provides a quality educational background that is highly sought after by employers,” said Glenn Walter, product manager, building and construction tapes, Shurtape. “There’s a strong and viable future in HVAC, especially since it’s a career path with year-round demand. Our Mission: HVAC program is designed to highlight the training required to become a HVAC professional and also celebrate these students’ numerous accomplishments.”
THE INITIAL THREE
The Mission: HVAC program’s inaugural edition currently includes three passionate students pursing a career in the HVAC field as they attend classes at Athens Technical College in Athens, Georgia.
“When we were creating this program, our main focus was to lower the financial burden for students,” said Walter. “There is a certain stigma against the skilled trades, as a whole, and this program aims to counter that.
“Carter Stanfield [the recently retired director of the air conditioning technology department at the school] was interviewed in an industry publication, and we reached out to him,” Walter continued. “We presented parameters of the program to the students at Athens and then invited them to apply.”
A variety in age and background is evident in the first three students to be included in the program. Daniel Buth, 50, was born in Romania and has been at Athens since 2012. Josue Trejo, 24, started his collegiate career in marketing and has been at Athens since 2013. Matt Morris, 30, is a father of two in search of job security and a fulfilling career.
Each month, the students must complete a themed mission designed to test their classroom learnings, real-life experience, and skills. The students then report their experiences through individual blog posts.
Upon completion of the program and their assigned missions, each student will receive $5,000 toward their educational costs.
“Working with different technicians and instructors, and interviewing all levels of professionals, has given me the opportunity to learn new skills, improve techniques, determine opportunities to make procedures faster and more efficient, and more,” said Buth. “Overall, I’m becoming more confident about the skilled trades I am performing and my chosen career path.”
“The majority of people who are successful in this field are successful because they love what they do,” said Trejo. “I also noticed every single person I’ve interviewed so far has pride in his or her work and it shows in the quality of the work. They always go the extra mile to make sure everything is top notch.”
The students have completed six of their 10 missions to this point, and each has provided unique challenges to them.
“It’s been challenging coordinating with the interviewees since they’re typically very busy and so am I,” said Trejo. “[The experience] has reconfirmed that I would enjoy working in this field, and I will continue to pursue a career in HVAC.”
The missions are quite varied, but relevant, said Walter. “We want them to look back and say this is actually something that helped me prepare for work in the field. They have really done great so far and have provided us with a ton of information and blog posts.”
On one of the missions, the students were tasked with learning how a day in the life of someone in the HVAC world typically goes. Morris interviewed Donnie Jordan, owner of Jordan Air Inc. in Watkinsville, Georgia. He learned more about Jordan Air’s history, how he got into the industry, what he does on a daily basis, and what it takes to successfully own and lead an HVAC company.
In his blog post, Morris said: “Whether it’s at the office, in the field, or in the classroom, there’s never a dull moment. It’s an interesting job with a variety of opportunities to learn and use problem-solving skills. That’s exactly what I want in a career.”
“We’ve interviewed instructors, students, and field technicians to help complete each of these missions,” said Buth. “The missions have been about safety, improvements, and various interviews in the field. We’ve interviewed technicians and instructors about procedures, techniques, and tips in the HVAC field and learned a great deal.”
Shurtape’s Mission: HVAC scholarship differentiates itself from other scholarships due to its ability to establish a lasting relationship with the students well past the time they actually spend in the ‘Educate for Success’ program.
“We consider these students an asset to us, and we are going to follow their work out in the field after their time in the program ends,” said Walter. “We want them to reach out to us in the future so we can build and sustain a long-term relationship.”
Athens Technical College also appears to be committed to the program and school officials have given positive feedback to this point. While Stanfield introduced this group of students to the program, Coleman Simmons is currently the teacher assisting with the program.
Walter said the school has been excited to work with Shurtape from both a corporate perspective as well as in the classroom.
Publication date: 7/13/2015