John Conrad

In today’s job market, contractors are in a unique position to hire good people, especially young people, and they should take advantage. Unlike many industries, hot and cold weather tends to negate a recession, so our industry has job opportunities, and we can now attract potential workers with products that are technologically advanced with sophisticated electronics including wireless technology. Combine this with the opportunity to earn a good living, and we can compete with just about anybody.

I’m serious about this, and the U.S. government agrees with me. According to the Labor Department website, and its Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Job prospects for heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers are expected to be excellent, particularly for those who have completed training from an accredited technical school or a formal apprenticeship. A growing number of retirements of highly skilled technicians are expected to generate many more job openings.”


The report listed the median wage for a technician was $19.08 per hour in 2008. This looks even better when compared to other hourly wages. had a story on America’s Top 5 Most Popular Hourly Jobs based on job searches on a site called The top job was sales representative at $27.64 per hour. I think a good HVAC sales rep for a contracting firm would leave that rate in the dust.

Back to HVAC technicians - they fare pretty well in the pay category with the next four jobs of administrative assistant ($19.57), auto mechanics ($17.54), customer service representative ($14.93) and construction laborers ($14.88). In fact, a contractor can represent a place of employment for any of these top five.

During a Google search of HVAC Careers, I came across a video on 25 cool careers which featured Marty Nemko, contributing editor-careers for U.S. News & World Report. One of the top 25 cool careers was green product sales. He claimed in the video, “There is no faster growing area for careers than green product sales.”

Hey, what’s greener than replacing hundreds of old 6-8 SEER equipment with R-12 and R-22 refrigerant leaking into the atmosphere, with 16 or 18 SEER equipment that optimizes cooling and heating and uses R-410A? We have a story to tell green customers and potential employees that lean green.

When I mentioned this to Terry Nicholson, president of One Hour Air Heating and Conditioning and Airtime 500, he didn’t buy the angle of promoting your business to young people simply because it’s green. He did say, “In today’s world, young people are bombarded with new stuff all the time and the pace is really fast. They don’t like doing the same thing over and over. Our industry is not only recession-proof, but there are dozens and dozens of new products and new technologies and that help keep the job interesting.”

Mike Mayberry, president of HVACagent, an Internet-based career recruitment firm, said we face a challenge with uninformed career counselors that don’t even bring up HVAC as an option. He said that contractors and local associations should go to the high schools armed with data, especially the income opportunities. (Go to the Career Center at and find out the hourly pay rate for several HVAC job categories).

Chris Compton, president of, an online school and education resource, has seen a significant increase in highly skilled and experienced people taking online programs from his company. So it is not just young people that are potential recruits. “We are now dealing with some pretty sophisticated students,” said Compton.

Where am I going with all this? I think contractors should seize the day and reposition their companies to recruit young people, and to appeal to highly skilled workers. We need to tell the working world (and school counselors) that we are a stable, recession-proof industry with lots of new technology products and lots of opportunity for technically oriented young people, and highly skilled workers that need to retrain themselves. And yes, we are a green industry with practical and proven answers to energy conservation.

Publication date:08/30/2010