I recently attended ACCA’s IE3 Indoor Environment and Energy Expo in beautiful Nashville, Tennessee.

During the event, I was blown away by the amount of information I was able to consume. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the event was the ability to learn about the industry directly from HVACR contractors. I attended several industry roundtables, and it was during those sessions that I got a real and honest viewpoint from many of the contractors who subscribe and contribute to The NEWS.

During the varying roundtable sessions, one very important issue stood out — recruiting new technicians. Time and again, and especially within the Residential Contracting Excellence lunch led by Eric Knaak, vice president and general manager, Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning Inc., Rochester, New York, this topic was a hot button issue.

Those in attendance discussed a lot of different recruiting methods. I eagerly listened as contractors spilled their secrets.

Knaak stressed the importance of starting early — as early as middle school. A lot of contractors found that when they visited their local middle schools, teachers and students were receptive to their speeches and demonstrations regarding careers in the HVAC industry. Starting this young plants the idea in young prospects’ minds, allowing it to ruminate prior to their high school graduation.

“We start in eighth grade,” said Knaak. “We’ve been doing that the last several years. We also attend a lot of career fairs.”

During these visits, inform students that by entering the trades, they can make more money faster without five-figure student loan bills. They’re going to hear plenty about the importance of a four-year collegiate education, so why not inspire them to consider an alternate pathway.

Some contractors are taking this a step further and hiring interns or part-time community college students to work for them prior to or while they attain the proper certifications. Students who are familiar with a company are much more likely to work for that company once they’ve completed their course work.

In addition, people are marketing their businesses using recruiters or other advertising methodologies. Marion Wood, owner and president of Dan Wood Co., Portage, Michigan, has had success advertising on the radio. She said the company has also had success working with Tradesman Intl., a recruiting company for construction contractors and industrial companies.

“We put a radio ad out there stating ‘come work for us’ that discusses our company, and we got one really good technician out of that. Then, we started using Tradesman Intl., and we are now buying out the contractor’s contract that we found through them,” said Wood.

Knaak said Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning has hired a professional, full-time recruiter. While they are a larger company, at 300-plus employees, he encouraged contractors to think about doing so regardless of size.

“Depending on the size of your company, you may not need a full-time recruiter, but you might find somebody who is part time or working from home,” he said. “If they can prequalify candidates, go to networking events for you, and bring people in, that’s great,” said Knaak.

Believe it or not, there are qualified recruits out there, it just may take extraneous efforts to locate, train, and retain them. The employees at Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning and Dan Wood Co. show that while it may take a little time, money, and effort, hiring in the trades is still taking place in 2017. Plant the seeds early, find a marketing niche that works, and reach out to those who make a living recruiting for you. Happy hunting!

Publication date: 5/1/2017

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