You’ve seen a certain scene play out many times.

A talented football player sits down at a podium, flanked by parents, coaches, and an assortment of different hats embroidered with university logos.

With an ESPN camera locked in, the player peers over all his options on the table, looks into the camera, and lifts a hat onto his head to signify the school he will be attending in the fall.

It’s undoubtedly a big moment for a student-athlete as he or she just made a four-year commitment to an academic institution.

But, what if instead of a prospective star athlete sitting at the podium it was a potential HVAC technician? Would this drum up interest in HVAC? What if the industry treated its future prospects as the stars that they are?


This is the approach being taken at Washburn Institute of Technology in Topeka, Kansas. The school has held its own edition of National Signing Day for two years, seating students at a table, giving them a Washburn Tech hat, and having them sign documents indicating they will attend Washburn.

I heard about this concept from Clark Coco, the dean of Washburn Institute of Technology, as he gave a presentation during the 2015 National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3) Leadership Summit in Kenosha, Wisconsin, back in July.

While it may sound a bit gimmicky, Coco swears by its effectiveness, as more than 500 students signed a Letter of Intent during the school’s first National Signing Day in 2014.

“Think about the power a student feels when he or she is needed and wanted,” said Coco during his presentation. “There’s nothing more powerful than that.”

Now, whether or not a larger-scale National Signing Day initiative is a potential solution for the upcoming technician shortage is clearly still debatable, but the idea and the execution of it to this point is commendable.

We all know about the technician gap. The lack of technicians entering the HVAC industry to replace the aging workforce is a growing problem. Here at The NEWS, we’ve covered it extensively, mentioned it frequently, and showcased statistics about its harsh realities.

Knowing these things, recruitment becomes an even more essential part of the HVAC industry moving forward. HVAC pros need to showcase this profession to the next generation and provide reasons why it is such a fulfilling and rewarding career.

This National Signing Day tactic is a genuine attempt at solving the problem and bringing excitement into the process of recruitment. That has to be a start, right? And it’s not the only innovative way that groups or organizations in the industry are tackling recruitment.

Nexstar Legacy Foundation’s Troops to Trades and the Kenneth Goodrich CSN Post-9/11 Veteran HVAC Employment Program are providing scholarships and contacts for military veterans with interest in the trades.

Renee Cardarelle, executive director of Troops to Trades, said in June that working with businesses and teaching them to go out in the field themselves is the main method for recruiting veterans.

Cardarelle also said employers need to broaden their ideas of basic skills and acknowledge the potential of veterans.

Washburn Tech has developed a program that is working for its students and has expanded to other schools, such as Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Troops to Trades is ensuring veterans know they can find a long-term home in the world of HVAC.

How are you as a contractor approaching recruitment? Do you think National Signing Day is a good idea? How about going into your local trade school and pitching them on the idea? Talk to local media about showcasing the event, televising it, and plastering it across social media.

And, if you don’t like this idea, try out another one. Just make sure you’re actively trying to recruit the next generation of HVAC pros.

In the end, it’s likely to be a combination of many different recruitment ideas, both good and bad, that will make the difference between settling for a one-star recruit and bringing in a bevy of five-star talent.

Publication date: 11/23/2015

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