The other day, I asked my son what he wants to be when he grows up. (He’s turning 9 next week, so it’s about time he started thinking about his future, don’t you think?)
“A geologist,” he told me, very matter-of-factly. He’s never wanted to be a fireman, police officer, veterinarian, or even a superhero — nope, he just wants to study rocks. Rocks, rocks, rocks. I should’ve known — every drawer in our house holds some of the hundreds (thousands?) of rocks and gems he’s found, or made me buy.
“It’s hard to find a job with a degree in geology, honey. What about the trades?” I asked him. He looked at me funny. I clarified: “Like, maybe an electrician or a plumber? Or an HVAC technician who fixes furnaces and air conditioners?”
“Why would I want to do that?” he asked.
I know, I know. I’m beating a dead horse by writing about recruitment again. But, you know what? It’s important, and we need to keep talking about it.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the job market for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is predicted to grow 34 percent between 2010 and 2020, adding 90,000 new HVACR jobs. Yet, despite paying livable wages, students are led away from technical schools and toward four-year collegiate programs.
In a guest editorial published last September in The NEWS, Don Frendberg, executive director of the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation, pointed to the misperception that a bachelor’s degree begets success. That school of thought, he said, is failing our young adults — many of whom are finding themselves jobless and burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans despite their high education levels.
But what can the industry do to convince potential technicians they can earn honest livings as HVACR technicians?
Frendberg said the industry — from manufacturers on down to individual contractors — is going to have to work much harder to target middle and high school counselors, teachers, administrators, and especially parents. In many cases, the burden is going to fall on the contractors to spread the word about the benefits this industry has to offer.
“Speaking opportunities, field visits, career fairs, and other interactions with schools can be arranged and coordinated with talking points and collateral materials for those interested in getting involved,” Frendberg wrote. Working together as an industry, he added, is the only way to ensure growth in years to come.
As the “boots on the ground” in this industry, contractors are arguably in the best position to influence public perception of careers in HVAC and change the decades-old misconception that success requires a four-year degree. But, it’s going to take time and a lot of hard work.
As a contractor and business professional in your community, it falls on you to call your area schools, befriend the guidance counselors, plan visits, participate in career fairs, and ask if you can come in and talk to some of the students and parents. You will have to make the effort, however, because if you’re expecting prospective technicians to come to you and say, “Hey, I want to do what you do — tell me how I can do that,” you could be waiting a long, long time.
For more information about the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation, visit www.careersinhvacr.org.
Publication date: 11/17/2014