Much of the discussion within the HVAC industry and this magazine centers on getting qualified individuals to join the industry workforce. And attention should be dedicated to this issue, as it is a real problem that affects the industry now and in the foreseeable future. However, the industry also must spend time and resources looking into how it is preparing those who have chosen to work in it. Quality trumps quantity, as it’s not how many people join the industry, but how many properly trained individuals get the job done in the field.
This point was evident when I read a recent study performed by Steve Coscia of Coscia Communications titled, “What Contractors are Really Saying about Trade Schools.” Perhaps you’ve heard Coscia talk about customer service topics at an industry event or two. He knows his stuff, and his survey of 222 contractors was quite interesting.
When the contractors were asked if they had an affiliation with a trade school, 33 percent said they did while 67 percent said they did not. To be honest, I was a little surprised that number did not crack the 50 percent mark. Of those with an affiliation, 94 percent hire graduates either always, most, or some of the time. That makes sense. If contractors are going to invest time and energy into the local trade school, one would hope they get first crack at the talent when they are hiring.
Most interesting to me, though, was how these contractors looked at trade school graduates when compared to those who did not attend a trade school. A total of 113 respondents said they were either very satisfied or satisfied with new hires who have graduated from a trade school. Conversely, respondents were most dissatisfied with new hires who did not attend a trade school.
All that data should tell the industry that trade schools play an important role in developing capable technicians. So, the question becomes, why are only 33 percent of the contractors surveyed playing an active role in their community trade schools? Supporting HVAC trade schools is good for the contractor and the industry.
It’s good for the industry in that graduates will be able to capably work out in the field. This should not be important to just contractors, but also manufacturers and distributors, as well. It helps reduce callback and warranty costs, which saves money and builds confidence. The general public already has a skeptical view of contractors, and a lack of knowledge on the technician level just feeds into that.
And, of course, being directly involved in a trade school can be done for purely selfish reasons. It is not just the obvious reason that those contractors will have an inside track for hiring the top talent out of the school. Being on the board of the trade school means contractors get to help influence the school’s direction and curriculum. That means the school will be teaching the students the same way the company is training its technicians to solve problems. That makes for an easier transition when hiring those trade school graduates.
So, while plenty of attention needs to be spent making sure students know what a great industry HVAC is to work in, it is also imperative the industry give the same amount of attention to training those interested in making HVAC their career.
Publication date: 12/8/2014