Mark Skaer

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that HVACR jobs will increase by 29 percent - or, 38,000 jobs - by 2014. In addition, 27,000 new HVACR techs are needed annually to replace retiring workers - numbers current training programs cannot begin to meet.

The picture is not pleasant, is it? For the most part, it appears this industry is getting tough over this labor shortage predicament, both current and future.

The NEWS thought it would be a good idea to explore just what each segment of the industry (manufacturers, contractors, and associations) is doing to help resolve the labor shortage problem.

I am happy to report that, for the most part, each segment is pitching in. I encourage one and all to read the first installment of this informative and exclusive NEWS series. It’s the headline story on page 1 of this issue. Find out what some contractors are doing to meet the situation head-on. It’s interesting stuff.

My assignment involved digging up association participation. Not a problem. Each of the five contractor groups that got back to me provided plenty of ammunition. Admittedly, prior to the discussions, I thought some were just talking the talk. However, I found out that all five are, at the very least, trying to walk the walk, too.

I said, trying. In the end, it’s still going to take a village to raise more HVACR employees. Translation? It’s going to take industry unity to get people interested in and join this demanding, but very important, trade.  

MANY STAKEHOLDERS IN THIS ISSUE

I turn to a white paper on this very subject, composed by three concerned people in this industry: Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) consultant Michael Honeycutt; ACCA technical education consultant Dick Shaw; and Gerry Kennedy, chief operating officer, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Education Foundation.

In a nutshell, “Achieving Tomorrow’s Construction Workforce” is a three-part outline as to what this industry must do collectively in order to get the job done for one and all. As the three stated, the guideline was created “to assist and promote the progress of building national and local coalitions to address the tremendous need for building a workforce for the construction industry of America.”

Honeycutt, Shaw, and Kennedy hit it on the head when they point out that there are many industry stakeholders in this issue, not just HVACR contractors. After all, the construction industry is not only a huge industry, employing millions of workers; it is also a very diverse industry.

There are a multitude of trades (organized and open shop) involved with the building, finishing, providing fixtures and plumbing, HVACR, electrical, etc. Thus, stakeholders include material and equipment manufacturers, distributors, contractors, builders, developers, building owners and operators, utilities, and associations.

If this is any consolation, the HVACR contractor is not alone in the suffering. There is a lack of qualified workers in every segment of the construction trade. It’s why it is going to take cooperation, input, and action from each segment to get the job done.  

STEP THREE IS THE HARDEST

Besides identifying all stakeholders, the next step should be to develop postsecondary educational programs to train the skilled workers needed by the HVACR and plumbing industry. In their paper, Honeycutt, Shaw, and Kennedy provide ways as to how this could be accomplished. Some of the steps include contacting key stakeholders in each state/local area.

The third and final step is the hardest to organize. They believe there is, as they put it, “the need for an organizational structure, funding mechanism, and staffing that can provide the cohesive union to bring success to the important workforce needs of the entire construction industry.”

Translation: A national coalition should be put into place. “By recruiting multiple organizations to dedicate resources and engage their staff specialists in the project, such an undertaking can be successful,” they maintain.

The entire white paper can be found on The NEWS’ Web site (www.achrnews.com) on the Extra Edition page as a Web Exclusive article. I encourage one and all to read it entirely. Consider it a needed blueprint to turn this thing around.

Publication date: 11/12/2007