It’s a well-known fact that the HVACR industry belongs to the baby boomer generation right now, but they’re rapidly approaching retirement, and Gen Y, which is largely the offspring of the baby boomer generation, will soon take over the bulk of the workforce in the U.S.

But, the way Generation Y — millennials born between the early 1980s and late 1990s – behaves in the classroom and workplace is quite different from the Boomers, and, as I talk to people in the industry, I realize this generational gap is causing some very real tension between instructors and students.

I’m giving a presentation on millennials next Tuesday at the HVACR & Mechanical Conference for Education Professionals, and I’ve been doing a lot of research on the topic. I found a great article in Psychology Today that pulls together several studies on the millennial generation. One interesting quote from Josh Berzin, a talent management expert, caught my eye:

“Your ability to attract, develop, and retain young leaders will make or break your company in the coming years. The way we move people around, the way we appraise people, the types of rewards we provide … and how we think about careers all need to change.”

I know many Baby Boomers can be resistant to change, but change is coming, whether you’re ready or not, and it’s imperative that both employers and educators alike begin changing how they do things. Millennials communicate electronically and use technology in almost every facet of life, so perhaps now is the time for instructors and trainers to get on Twitter, Facebook, etc., and start checking out the latest industry apps and technologies. Millennials are also interested in eLearning and telecommuting, so smart instructors will start thinking about ways to integrate eLearning in their classrooms. And, perhaps due to a reliance on technology, many millennials are lacking “soft skills,” like customer service, that are often left out of the curriculum altogether. Maybe it’s time to start teaching those skills to every group that comes through the classroom.

Will these things take time? Yes, of course. But those who adapt will not only survive, but thrive and become some of the best instructors HVAC has to offer.