No Wonder There's a Shortage of New Techs

[Editor’s note: This letter is in response to Mark Skaer’s “Education: It’s Still a Two-Way Street,” Feb. 19.]

People are having a hard time justifying why they should expend so much effort with training and extensive licensing such as refrigeration, natural and propane gas, electrical service, plumbing service, and oil burner. All the time and money spent on college or technical school and you are still an apprentice. Schools do not have the facilities to teach every aspect of the trade. The starting wage is all the same whether your education is vocational high school, technical school for one year, or technical college for two years.

The hours are not 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., they are more like 8 a.m. to when all the calls are complete. On call could be once or twice a week and one weekend one or two times a month. Single people complain they don’t have life, wives complain they never see their husbands. Wives cannot work if there are children in the household because the husbands do not know when they’ll be home.

A person starting in the trade that is 30 and above with baggage (wife, children, mortgage) cannot survive on apprentice wages for the four to five years it takes to get proficient. Then the hours, nights, weekends, and holidays they are not used to causes early termination and the hope for employment doing building maintenance 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

There is little talk about one source of labor: sons and daughters of technicians. Very little of this source is coming into the trade because they see how hard and how much they have to give up and the pay is just not there. Other tradespeople have no problem passing on their trade because the hours and the demands remain about the same.

Contractors themselves are not all innocent; a lot keep costs down. The insurance provided is $125 to $135 per week, with no vacation or 401(k)/profit sharing. To get a job when times are slow, jobs are priced at cost. By doing this, it is keeping wages below standards; these always lose.

The HVACR industry needs to re-evaluate itself; in 10 to 15 years, there’s going to be a decline in service technicians. When maintenance managers call for service, there won’t be anyone on the other end.

Roy McCoy, CE
Refrigeration Contractor
Lowell, Mass.

Kudos on Greening of Commercial Sector

I have just finished reading Joanna Turpin’s article “Commercial Market Turns Green,” Feb. 5, and wanted to send my kudos along. As usual, it was a well-written, easy-to-understand, and timely piece. I hope her inbox was choked with grateful readers who may be rethinking their approach to their business and maybe their impact on the planet.

The very last paragraph is most telling. I will be using it as my opening slide in a presentation I’m giving this month.

Michael Scharing
Hydronika Inc.
Shelbyville, Ind.

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Publication date:04/09/2007