Sometimes persistence does pay off. For some time now, I have been informing a 19-year-old son of a friend of mine that the HVACR industry could use his services. He admitted that he was attending a local community college “just to go to school.” Being employed at a local tree nursery for most of his high school days, Mitchell said he enjoyed working with his hands - and that he certainly did not want a “desk job” the rest of his life.

Though his mother wanted her son to avoid latching on to a “hard labor” career, Mitchell will be attending Ranken Technical College in St. Louis next fall. He is currently filling out any and all possible scholarship opportunities, so if you know of any, please let me know. I will definitely pass them along to Mitchell, who is now gung-ho about going. (I also vow to place the information in The NEWS, as we should have an all-inclusive listing of scholarships available in this industry for incoming students. Pass it along, and I’ll make sure it gets in print.)

Though it still remains to be seen if Mitchell follows through and becomes a rookie technician after earning an associate’s degree in two years, I realize encouragement will be needed along the way. So if you have any words of wisdom to pass along to a student learning the trade, I’ll take that to him, too.

I’m beginning to think Hilary Clinton is right. It does take a village to raise an HVACR technician.

TEACHERS ARE IMPORTANT, TOO

Mitchell’s career fate rests in his attitude and, somewhat, in his teachers’ persistence. Knowing many of the instructors at Ranken, Mitchell should be in good hands there. But it still has to be difficult keeping students on target - especially the younger crowd. You have to keep them excited - and, let’s face it, this industry is not exactly exciting day in and day out. If it were, there would not be a technician shortage, right?

(It’s one reasonThe NEWStries to honor top-notch teachers via our annual “Best Instructor” contest. For full details, visit wwww.achrnews.com, or turn to page 33 for a nomination form. Deadline for all entries is June 8, which is just around the corner.)

It was interesting attending the two recent HVACR instructor workshops, one hosted by HVAC Excellence; the other sponsored by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) along with eight other industry associations. At the latter, Dick Wirz, director of service and training for distributor Virginia Air, gave a full lecture to HVACR instructors on “Maximizing Learning with PowerPoint.” Wirz was OK with teachers inserting a funny video or animated short to keep students’ attention. His humor seemed to work with the instructors, who paid attention to what was being presented. In addition to taking a village, apparently adding humor does not hurt, either.

PUT HEADS TOGETHER

As we all know, there is no magic bullet in persuading today’s youth to this industry. Heck, it is difficult keeping students in school - period. Thirty percent of American high school incoming freshmen students drop out of the nation’s educational system and do not earn their diplomas. It’s crazy. While thousands of talented Americans are lost in the system, the nation’s professional trades face an ever-spiraling shortage of skilled workers.

The need to address these two problems brought the leaders of the nation’s leading associations in this industry together with the country’s leading business federation and top government officials in a high-level summit early last month in Washington, D.C.

The HVACR Industry Alliance, comprised of the chief executives of this industry’s trade associations too numerous to list here, met with senior officials of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Institute for a Competitive Workforce, as well as representatives of the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Education in a “first step” summit toward evaluating possible solutions to the need for expanded skills-training nationwide. The meeting was chaired by Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), who realizes it takes a village to produce results.

I’m happy to report that at this initial summit, the U.S. Chamber pledged its full cooperation in focusing on the need for expanded skills training. Yet to be determined by the group is whether a solution strategy will focus on legislative goals, policy or regulatory initiatives, or other state-by-state strategies. The group will continue meeting and convene an expanded summit in the future.

Contact Don Frendberg, executive vice president and COO of the Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), to pass along your thoughts. With more involvement, results are achievable. After all, you are a part of this HVACR village. If the village is to grow, you need to get involved.

Publication date:05/21/2007