Hiring has been a challenge for the HVAC industry for years, and the coronavirus pandemic only made it more difficult. Finding the best technicians and support staff requires meeting with people and getting to know them. That becomes a little harder when wearing a mask and staying six feet away.
HVAC contractors are looking at different options. Some are hosting virtual hiring events, with job candidates meeting managers via video conferencing. But many feel these meetings lack the depth of face-to-face meetings.
Frank Gay Services, an Orlando, Florida, HVAC contractor, came up with a creative solution — a drive-through hiring event. Drive-through events have been used to everything from vaccination to confession during the pandemic. The management at Frank Gay felt it would work for hiring as well.
"We are growing and looking for techs who want to grow with us, whether that be further technical skill development or broadening their career path toward management,” said Scott Gaines, Frank Gay’s chief operating officer.
The firm held the event in early December with the goal of hiring 34 new employees. It drew 73 applicants, and Frank Guy hired 26. Applicants drove up and sat in their cars while they met with the firm’s various trade managers.
Open House Shut Down For Now
More firms are going to have to look at alternatives like this, as their traditional methods are unavailable due to the pandemic. For example, T.F. O’Brien & Co., a residential HVAC contractor in New York, used to host a monthly open house for job candidates at its New Hyde Park facility.
The last one was in February 2020. Vinny Fasano, the firm’s operations manager, said they hired three of their current employees at that event. These open houses would include food and a tour of the facilities.
“It’s a good way to see a lot of people at the same time,” Fasano said.
T.F. O’Brien management would get to know the potential employees in a more comfortable environment, and the applicants would get to know the business. They would see the training room, the operations area, and how clean the trucks are. These are all workplace factors that are important to a tech other than money, Fasano said. T.F. O’Brien has other ways to find employees, but this event was one of the best.
Hiring events are crucial because the HVAC business needs more technicians, said Steve MacNally, Frank Gay’s general manager. MacNally describes tradespeople in general as “a dying breed.” But the good to come out of COVID, he continued, is that people are now starting to see tradespeople as essential workers. Even when everything else shuts down, people still need HVAC techs.
“Maybe that will guide more kids into getting into the trades so we don’t have such a hard time finding them in the future,” McNally said.
That future can’t arrive soon enough for Frank Gay Services. The HVAC firm is growing rapidly, McNally said. Despite being around for 30 years, he said Frank Gay is just starting to hit its stride. The main factor holding back growth is the availability of workers.
“We have a lot of customers just sitting there, waiting for us to come out and service them,” McNally said. “We need people to do it.”