HVAC is not a sexy career. To be fair, most careers aren’t that sexy either, but somehow it seems easier to sell the idea of rocket scientist than HVAC technician. The question is: How does an industry make itself more attractive?

Flashy cars, scantily clad women, open bars, and a plethora of other gimmicks have been tried. These tactics may be successful at a trade show, but they don’t seem to bring in the large crowds of eager young candidates just dying to be HVAC technicians.

Dress HVAC up how you want, but in all honesty, you can only put so much lipstick on an ugly girl. Unfortunately, she often still looks like an ugly girl wearing too much lipstick, not the beauty queen that was expected to emerge.

Change Your Emphasis

Perhaps it is time for some new tactics. Perhaps it is time to stop thinking of HVAC as an ugly girl that needs to be dressed up in order to attract eligible suitors and think of her as an intriguing and unique entity with limitless possibilities.

Many reading this will likely say that they already do believe HVAC is a wonderful career, but unfortunately that is not enough. Give some of these same people five minutes in a classroom of possible future technicians and it is highly likely that their wonderful career speech will fall flat as they emphasize the hard work, long hours, and sweat that are necessary to make an HVAC career successful.

Big deal. Every successful career requires hard work and long hours. HVAC may require more actual sweat as compared to some others, but there are many people that enjoy working outside and with their hands. The thought of being stuck in an office or a cubicle is a suffocating proposition to them, even if that means they have to endure some more extreme weather and physical challenges.

Not only does HVAC provide more action than many other industries, it also requires highly skilled minds. It needs to attract those who are willing to learn the technical and business sides of HVAC. It needs to find the next great comfort inventors and nurture the ideas of those who want to challenge typical installations with innovation and improvement. HVAC installation is not the equivalent of slinging burgers. Every install is different and requires an engaged mind, not an assembly style mentality that anyone with an eighth grade education could pull off.

HVAC service calls not only require an engaged mind, but they also demand analytical attention to detail and system processes. And when it comes to the business side of HVAC, applying technology, learning and understanding management principles, and achieving new levels of increased profit margins and success also requires an intelligent individual with a drive to go above and beyond standard requirements.

Although HVAC technicians may not be directly saving lives like a doctor, or handling the world’s money like financial brokers, this honorable career not only consistently puts food on many tables across the United States, but it also provides opportunities for great mechanical minds to stretch and innovate.

Intellectual Outranks Physical

Those that seem to best understand the potential of the HVAC industry are its educators. HVAC education comes in many packages, but those investing in the future industry workforce seem to grasp that placing the emphasis on the intellectual demands of the job instead of the physical demands is something that helps make the HVAC industry more attractive. They don’t lie about the hard physical work, but they impress on their students the importance of understanding the scientific principles of HVAC and educating them about the possibilities a basic knowledge of heating and cooling provides.

Still not sure about this premise of changing the HVAC emphasis to intellectual as opposed to physical? Consider this: HVAC education classes focus on science, heating, cooling, refrigeration, installation, brazing, diagnostics, safety, etc. When was the last time an HVAC student went through a high-heat or cold-weather endurance training class? How many times were they tested on the amount of weight they could lift or how many miles they could run hauling equipment?

There may be some instructors out there who test these capabilities, but it doesn’t seem to be a common practice. The perfect HVAC candidate may be a rocket scientist mind with body builder attributes, but an overall emphasis on intellect may be wiser than on the physical, especially when talking to a room of high school and college students still searching for something to do with the rest of their lives.

As contractors search and woo new employees, I would suggest they leave the fancy lipsticks and gimmicks at the shop. HVAC is not an ugly career. If we can convince ourselves of that first, it likely won’t be as difficult to convince prospective candidates.

Publication date: 03/12/2012