Sometimes the toughest situations can have the easiest of answers — yet the answer is difficult to execute. For instance, there are tens of thousands of diet books on the market. However, the answer to the overweight problem is pretty simple — eat less and exercise more. Of course, I know that and still have the body of John Goodman.
For as long as I have been covering the HVAC industry, finding qualified workers has always been a top concern. People I have talked to blame (and rightfully so), students, parents, guidance counselors, and even other contractors. While this is a big problem that will take a lot of effort to correct, HVACR Workforce Development Foundation executive director Don Frendberg has a pretty good answer to the problem, which is to talk about the industry more.
“We can’t afford to do a massive campaign like the pork industry, but we can sure get out and talk about the industry,” he said. “We are encouraging everyone in the industry to talk about the industry. I think instead of talking about Obamacare at your holiday dinner, talk about the HVAC industry. Tell people what you do. Talk to neighbors and friends. There is no one more enthusiastic about HVAC than the people doing it.”
Frendberg is right. I am always impressed with the amount of passion HVAC contractors have for the job. He has been at this awhile and knows the industry inside and out. I joke with him that he is the Brett Favre of HVAC; every year or two I hear he is retiring, and then the next time I see him, he has another job. Yet, an icon of the industry, Frendberg admits that he has not done a good enough job talking up the industry.
“A lot of people are passionate about the industry, but they don’t tell anyone about it. I am as guilty as anyone.” Frendberg said. “We do our job, but do we tell anyone else about it? Not really. We never get into much depth.”
This does not mean just talking with students and guidance counselors, although that can help. It can be speaking at a Kiwanis club, a PTA meeting, or at the neighborhood block party. I know I am interested in what other people do for a living. Why wouldn’t people be interested in what you do?
But, like my ingenious diet plan, this is easier said than done. Many HVAC contractors put in a ton of hours at the office. Contractors also likely go to bed thinking about their companies and wake up thinking about their companies. I am assuming the last thing they want to talk about at the neighborhood dinner party are their jobs. Let’s face it, this is a male-dominated industry, and guys are not big on talking work at home. My wife, a teacher, regales me with countless stories about her high school students (some of which I pay attention to, the vast majority of which I don’t) while I don’t know if she could identify what HVAC stands for. But, like Don mentioned, sharing your passion for this industry might open the door for a future HVAC contractor or technician. At the very least, it can make someone think about changing out their 25-year-old furnace or air conditioner.
We sometimes need to step out of our comfort zones and take one for the team. For HVAC contractors, this is one of those times. If it is going to better the industry and improve the workforce of the future, it is really a small price to pay.
Go out and spread the HVAC word.
Publication date: 9/15/2014