Occasionally, interesting people turn up on airplanes. Flying back from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) 39th Annual Conference in Orlando, I had a chance to meet a general contractor who specializes in commercial construction. With the obvious common interests, we struck up a lengthy discussion that ventured from green buildings to ventilation, and then to the more boring subjects of politics and religion. We naturally disagreed on those items, but the subject of training and education for the subtrades also came up. Mr. O’Brien and I agreed about the critical importance of mentoring young people into the trades.

O’Brien developed an affection for the trades while in college, and had a father who nurtured those interests along the way. O’Brien now encourages his own sons to learn a skilled trade and has even given them building “assignments” whenever an opportunity presents itself. He taught them the difference between a variety of nails when framing a section of his own basement wall. Successful mentoring practices can take many different roads. Now, the proud father finds that friends of his sons often come to him seeking advice on matters that range from carpentry to dating.


When just beginning my career I somehow fell under the wing of the person who hired me. Not too unusual a scenario, for sure. But I lost my mentor, the person who seemed to champion my career pursuit, when he left the company. I luckily stumbled across another great mentor who shared my particular passion for marketing. Unfortunately, he soon moved to another job, and again, I lost my advisor.

We all face a point in time when we must become our own mentor, our own champion for our own causes. However, every young person needs someone to help them model business behaviors that will produce long-lasting, positive results.

Perhaps the most significant challenge facing the HVAC industry is the shortage of qualified workers at all levels. Norbert W. Young Jr., president of McGraw-Hill Construction wrote in a letter that, “Recruiting has never been more critical. The industry must demonstrate to multiple levels of students - from middle schools to graduate schools - just how exciting the career opportunities are in construction, engineering, and architecture.”

Young is also on the board of the ACE Mentor Program, a catalyst for finding talented individuals for the construction industry. The program is run by a non-profit coalition of professionals working together to excite and motivate young people to pursue careers in construction. ACE affiliates now operate in 77 cities involving more than 143 after-school activity teams and 5,500 students.

At a recent national meeting of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America Inc. (MCAA), the association announced the formation of a committee tasked with developing a strong relationship with the ACE Mentor Program. MCAA has the goal of being known as the education association, and it is well on its way to accomplishing that goal.


Do you have a mentoring relationship with a son or daughter? A friend or student, or maybe an entire school? I wonder what would happen if everyone who read this page made a commitment to mentor just one person in the HVAC industry. It would be great if it were a young person who is new to HVAC and would like to learn more about the opportunities a career in this business can provide. However, as my plane-riding buddy told me, everyone needs a mentor all the time. “I’m 46 years old, but I’ve never been 47 yet.” We all need people to help us along at every stage of our lives. But, certainly, young people need your help. And while you are helping them, you’ll be helping your own business, if not for today ... for tomorrow.

If you know someone who is serving in a mentoring capacity, I’d like to know a little about the person. Whether it’s your mom or dad, or someone else you currently respect, tell me about someone who has made a difference in your life.

Publication date:03/19/2007