Organization Helps HVAC Techs Get a College Education
In hockey, they call three goals in a row a hat trick. And even though people in this industry are more concerned with making ice than playing on it, contractors from all over the country attended Service World Expo (SWE) this year in Las Vegas to witness the event score its first hat trick. In its third year, SWE saw a 33 percent increase in attendance for a record-breaking year (and a lot of hats).
“It was exciting to be back at Service World Expo for my third year,” said Chris Hunter, president and owner of Hunter Heat and Air. “I am able to learn so much, not only from the speakers and breakout sessions, but also from the exhibitors. It is amazing to see all of the new technology and products that will have a positive impact on the industry as well as my business.”
Perhaps the most exciting part of the multiday event was the announcement made by Service Roundtable about an opportunity for people entering the HVAC industry to earn a college degree while working in the business.
“We were talking with Matt Michel about the challenge HVAC business owners have around recruiting people into the field,” said Jonathon Fite, president of the Professional Development Institute at the University of North Texas.
Those challenges include the labor shortage of skilled tradesmen, retaining quality workers once they work for you, and finding a way to monetize the business when you retire.
What came out of those discussions was a program where individuals can learn the business management part of the business while they receive the technical training somewhere else. At the end of the process, they have the technical knowledge and a degree from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences.
“The business management training is layered on top of the technical training they receive,” Fite said.
The students would not need to go to the North Texas campus — although that is certainly an option. Those who are not local could do an interactive online option. Participants would attend a Friday afternoon and evening class and also do a full day Saturday class once a month. After four Saturdays, they would earn a certification which is equal to three hours of college credit that they would be able to stack toward a degree. The school likens it to an executive education program.
“This is targeted at folks in the workforce who have not come from a traditional educational background,” Fite said. “Maybe they got military training, came from a tech school, or have a shoebox of transcripts from nine different community colleges. The goal is to use their life experiences and build them toward a degree. Take this tech position from just being a job to a career path.”
This was rolled out to the Service Nation Alliance contractors at Service World Expo and received a great response. The plan is to eventually offer it to Service Roundtable contractors before possibly opening it up to everybody in the future.
“The response was outstanding,” Fite said. “There is an excitement. We are going to start there. If we were to try to reach out to these contractors independently the overhead on our part would be nuts.”
Michel believes there is an opportunity for a contractor to go to the high school guidance counselor and say they have a different approach.
“Tell them this is something you should consider talking to some of your students about,” he said. “It can be a recruiting tool for the contractor. It is also a retention tool because they are basically locked in until they finish.”
In addition to recruiting the younger generation to the industry, this can be a way to retain the quality employees you have. One big way Michel thinks it can improve contractors’ businesses is that it allows them the opportunity to open multiple locations.
“What we are trying to do is change the industry a little bit,” Michel said. “We want to encourage professionally managed organizations where there are career paths built into the program. They can be a service manager or move into HR or become a branch manager. Now you are starting to talk about multi-locations. Why haven’t contractors done more of that? Because they don’t know how to operate from remote locations. They do not have the procedures or processes in place. And they don’t have the people. This hopefully helps solve that problem. It can be a game changer for the contractors that are in it. Even if this is of interest to only 10 percent of the industry, I can see that 10 percent dominating 50 percent or more of the volume.”
Some of the other highlights from Service World Expo included keynote speeches by Ron White, Eric O’Neil, Mike Michalowicz, and Susan Frew. The expo also featured 33 breakout sessions, covering a myriad of topics, including standout presentations from Hunter’s “The Power of Social Media” and Ed McFarlane’s “How to Hold a Kick Ass Training Session.”
“Every year, we set the bar higher for Service World Expo,” said Liz Patrick, vice president of strategic alliances for Service Nation. “We are always pushing ourselves to provide better content and information for our attendees, as well as deliver ever-increasing value to our exhibitors to ensure they have the best show possible. Next year’s show at the Paris Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas will be even greater.”
For more information, visit www.serviceworldexpo.com/attend/paris.
Publication date: 11/5/2018