Butch Welsch

Several months ago I wrote about the need for us as contractors to do the right things to encourage young people into choosing our trade and becoming future installers and service technicians. I encouraged you to make sure that the total pay package you were offering was one that would attract young people to the HVAC industry. At that time I was addressing our needs specifically for those people that we will need to work with the tools, whether it is as an installer or a service technician. Lately, however, I have become aware of the fact that there is another area of need that we in the industry are going to have to address - interest.


I’m fortunate to sit on a couple of scholarship committees with the responsibility of grading scholarship applications for the awarding of college scholarships. Both of these committees represent our industry. That is, the population from which the applicants come is from within our industry.

The student must be in some way related to an individual who is currently employed in the HVAC sheet metal industry. This is definitely not a random sample of the population. These are the offspring of current sheet metal workers, service technicians, engineers, sales people, and others directly involved in HVAC. The problem is, only about 1 in 20 of the applications we are reviewing are students showing any interest at all in being involved in our industry following their schooling.

I have been looking very closely at the applications this year, and it actually appears that many of those currently involved in the HVAC business are encouraging their children to study almost anything that doesn’t relate to HVAC. Even those whose initial field of choice is engineering tend to be choosing some of the more exotic new forms of engineering rather than the more typical mechanical and electrical engineering fields.

Interestingly, and certainly to their credit, is the fact that many of the prospective students are choosing fields with an emphasis on humanitarian issues. Health care, in particular, and specifically providing help to those in poor and/or emerging countries, are rather popular new fields.


While I applaud these young people on their humanitarian ideals, I am incredibly concerned about where we are going to obtain the future engineers, business people, and others who must be the leaders of our industry. If it is a goal for so many who are now employed in the HVAC industry to encourage their children to go into other fields, then who is going to be encouraged to come into the HVAC business?

Have our countless 16-18 hour days and accompanying headaches encouraged our youngsters to look elsewhere for employment? If that is the case then it is imperative that all of you with children - not yet off to college - sit down and tell them about the positive things about HVAC. If it’s hard for you to come up with a list, then you probably have been giving off the wrong impression.

There are so many positives to our industry that it would take another column to relate even a portion. Just start thinking.

What’s more humanitarian than providing air conditioning - which is considered by some to be the most important invention of the 20th century? Keep thinking.

Being a relatively small, independent businessman has a lot to be said for it in this corporate, impersonal society in which we live. I believe you can come up with an extremely long list just by giving it some thought.

Now, take the list and tell any potential college student you know, whether it be your own child, a child of an employee, or just an acquaintance about all of the positive reasons why they should consider the HVAC industry for their livelihood.

If you and the others like you don’t do it, our shortage may be a lot worse than technicians or installers. There will be no future leaders of our industry.

Publication date:06/14/2010