If I had a nickel for every time a contractor lamented finding good employees, I could probably fund a presidential PAC. Gary Busey for president, anyone? It might be that kind of year.

And, while I don’t have one silver bullet to solve the workforce problem, I did run into someone at a recent industry event in Atlanta who might have a small piece of the solution. George Nicholson is the cofounder of Vet2Tech. As the name might imply, the organization’s sole purpose is to connect U.S. military veterans with jobs in the HVACR, commercial food equipment, and residential appliance repair industries.

The good news is the organization is quickly gaining momentum. Last year, it connected 400 veterans to jobs. In 2016, that number reached 117 in January and exceeded 200 in February. It’s only March and the organization is approaching last year’s totals.

And, there is even better news — I will give you a moment to get over the surprise as usually my editorials focus on the negative. The best news was what Nicholson said when the discussion we were having turned to the topic of HVACR.

“We are light on HVACR. We would like to have more HVACR companies in our database,” Nicholson said. “The vast majority of résumés end up going out to commercial food equipment and residential appliance companies. Many candidates have HVAC certificates and want to work in the HVAC space.”

That has to be music to this industry’s ears. Nicholson comes from the commercial food equipment industry, so that part of the equation has been flourishing.

“In the commercial food equipment industry, a lot of repair companies need HVAC and refrigeration technicians because of the ventilation and refrigeration systems in restaurants. They were all interested in hiring HVAC technicians. We started getting a lot of HVAC guys coming in and saying they want to connect,” Nicholson said.

Currently, Vet2Tech has approximately 1,500 companies from across the U.S. signed up for the program. Every vet who takes part in the program has his or her resume sent to 25-30 employers. It is a pretty powerful program.

Like anything in life, there is no such thing as a free lunch. This is a fee-based placement program. Though, as a business, there is no charge to sign up and receive resumes. However, if a contractor hires a candidate, the company is levied a $1,000 placement fee.

What many contractors might not know is there are tax credits available for hiring veterans. Nicholson estimated the tax credit varies from $2,400 to $9,600 on the national level, depending on the candidate. There are also state tax credits that average about $5,000.

“This is a great way to offset the cost of training,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson started this program after he saw a stat in 2012 that had the unemployment rate for veterans under the age of 24 at 30 percent. The HVAC industry is looking for disciplined, young people who have a core set of mechanical skills that companies can build on. These types of folks are coming right out of the military. Perhaps they were once aircraft crew chiefs or performed repairs on utility equipment. These individuals are ready to transition out of the military lifestyle and don’t have a real good idea of what they want to do.

The HVAC industry is ripe to provide them a career. This will not be a program that fills out your entire roster, but it can be a tool that helps you fill out your team.

For more information, visit www.vet2tech.org.

Publication date: 3/7/2016 

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