When I graduated from college with my shiny new journalism degree in hand, never in a million years did I think I would be writing about HVAC. Like most people in this industry, I kind of fell into it. In fact, the idea of a career in the trades never even crossed my mind in school. I’m sure I am not alone. This needs to change.

HVAC is a fantastic industry. The people are second to none, the technology is constantly changing and becoming more advanced, and there are limitless opportunities. Employment of HVACR technicians and installers is projected to grow 14 percent between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster, by average, than most other occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation estimates 115,000 new workers must be trained in this time to meet the demand. So, how do we, as an industry, attract new workers to the trade? By talking about it, of course.

Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of ACCA, recently told The NEWS that HVAC contractors — really all industry professionals — need to be more willing to share their own experiences.

“Contractors have to do a better job of telling their stories and become more involved with their local education systems and career fairs,” he said. “And, schools have to start telling students about the technical jobs that are available the day they graduate from high school. They have to help address the stigma that non-college-educated people aren’t as valuable as those with four-year degrees. And, we have to get to students earlier. We also should be targeting our soldiers who are transitioning from military to civilian life. ACCA is working closely with several veteran organizations on this topic.”

HVAC professionals need to start reaching out to local middle school and high school students to inform and educate them on the opportunities available in the trades. This type of community outreach can be beneficial for the company, as well.

Salem, New Hampshire-based MSI Mechanical Systems Inc. has had much success in creating a co-op program with a local high school to train young talent.

“We went to Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School and asked administrators if they would be willing to start a co-op for HVAC, electrical, and plumbing,” said Brian Hooper, vice president of operations at MSI. “They were excited to learn there was a huge demand for jobs in those areas, so when students graduated, they could find placement. We worked with teachers and built the program.”

Each year, MSI chooses a student to participate in a two-year program. The student works the rest of his junior year up until graduation. After 11 years of operation, MSI has hired seven full-time employees from the program.

“This program works because everyone is happy,” he said. “The students are happy because they are getting job experience, the school is happy because we’re giving the students jobs, the customers are happy because they’re getting a discounted rate, and I’m happy because my workforce is growing stronger every day.”

Now, you don’t have to go all out and create a brand new program like MSI but you can make a difference by visiting your local schools and discussing the wonderful opportunities HVAC affords students during career fair days. Explain how a career in the trades can be just as successful, sometimes more, than a four-year degree. Share your own success story with them. Get them hooked, because if you don’t, who will?