Important and relevant discussions about the future of the HVAC industry are taking place each and every day — you just have to know where to look. For some, that means going out and visiting with their contracting peers. Others are partial to attending conferences, while others may prefer to simply turn on their computers. Whatever avenue contractors take, this dialogue is important and vital to the future of HVAC.

For example, Ferris State University (FSU) in Big Rapids, Michigan, recently hosted the 2016 HVACR Instructor’s Workshop. The premise was simple and straightforward: Bring together HVAC instructors from multiple states to learn new teaching principles, share educational strategies, and discuss ways to address the burgeoning technician gap occurring across the country.

At times, the discussion between educators was passionate as instructors shared their experiences, thoughts, and frustrations with parts of the current HVAC landscape. Naturally, not everyone agreed on the best path forward, and while a consensus answer to the question was not reached, most realized some things need to change, and a concerted effort must be made to attract the younger generation to HVAC and the skilled trades, in general.

Was the problem of the technician gap solved? Unfortunately, it most likely was not, but it is workshops, seminars, conferences, and other events just like this one that will help stabilize the foundation of this industry and create a path forward for the next generation.

When Dr. Kitty Manley, a graduate professor in FSU’s career and technical education program, shared some radical ideas on how to reshape classrooms, no one scoffed at her new concepts or clamored to maintain the status quo. Instead, those in attendance listened to her thoughts, raised questions about the actual implementation of her ideas, and explained efforts they’d already made to transform their own classrooms.

Are you, as a contractor, making the effort to contribute to valuable discussions like the one that recently occurred at FSU?

This does not mean attending trade shows each month and being the first one to raise your hand during every industry seminar from California to New York, but perhaps you can attend and contribute to these events when they are near your city.

If that premise still seems too overwhelming for the time being, how about joining some of the myriad of engaging HVAC discussions taking place across the internet?

Here comes a slightly shameless plug: The NEWS itself has a LinkedIn group with more than 5,900 members. Conversations pop up daily concentrating on breaking news, troubleshooting tips, upcoming webinars, trade events, and more. This forum also allows our audience to sound off — for better or worse — on recent articles.

Now, The NEWS’ forum is just one of many places for HVAC conversations to take place, but where is the harm in commenting on a few of these stories when you have time? In just a few minutes, you could very easily glean information from other contributors and perhaps learn new tips and tricks.

The skills gap is just one topic frequently discussed within the HVAC industry. However, reasonable discussion and a healthy dialogue between contractors can only benefit everyone moving forward. Your means of contributing may differ from the guy across the street, and that is perfectly fine.

Just make sure you have a voice in the industry and are letting it be heard. There are thousands of us waiting to hear what you have to say.

Publication date: 8/29/2016 

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