If my anecdotal evidence is any indication, HVAC contractors from around the country are lamenting the skill level (or lack thereof) of the workforce. There are not enough technicians applying for jobs that have the skills to hit the ground running for a contractor. This is even true when talking about students who have recently graduated from an HVAC trade school.

That is one problem. The other problem is that the HVAC market is changing. Technologies that were barely visible when looking at a market share pie chart 15 years ago are now growing by leaps and bounds. A lot of times, it is tough for contractors to keep up with these changes. It can be even tougher for instructors and schools to keep up.

How does this problem get solved? The schools need help, and it is up to the contractors to lend that hand. This is exactly what happened recently in the HVAC program at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. That’s a real city … I checked. Contractors in the area told HVAC instructor Johnny McDonald that they needed technicians who had a good knowledge of VRF technology, as people with those skills were not applying for the jobs they had posted.

“They told me there was very limited knowledge in this area,” McDonald said. “And that due to the growth of that market in the area, this was a much-needed skill. They told me they would pay top dollar for technicians who were trained in this area.”

That was all that McDonald — who is constantly looking out for the best interest of his students — needed to hear. And the phrase “top dollar” certainly interested the students. McDonald requested the help of a few contractors in the area, who were able to open up some doors with manufacturers. Because they were working as a team, they were able to get LG to sponsor a lab with all the equipment that was needed.

“LG donated the equipment, and my guys installed it under their supervision,” McDonald said. “Now we are able to teach that.”

Problem solved. This was able to happen because McDonald has an engaged advisory board. They guide the program and provide good advice and recommendations. They work hand in hand to make sure the school is producing technicians who will be able to succeed. McDonald said he has a group of about 25 contractors who hire his students on a regular basis.

It makes sense for HVAC contractors to be driving this. They are the ones who will benefit the most from quality technicians flooding into their respective businesses.

The question for our contractor readers is how many school advisory boards are you on? From my point of view, it seems like a no-brainer. Sure, it is a time commitment, but it is a pretty productive use of your time. And according to McDonald, for his school, it is not that big of a time commitment. The board meets a couple times a year and also serves as a sounding board for the program.

For that time investment, the local contractors are able to mold future job applicants before a job is even posted. You can be as involved as you want to be. But if students see your face around the school every now and again, they will be more apt to hire in with your company instead of a competitor whose name means nothing to them.

So reach out to your local trade schools and get involved. You will be amazed at the return on your investment.

Publication date: 6/25/2018

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