I live up in Michigan — Big Ten country. While I freely admit that the SEC has the most talented college football teams, the Michigan Wolverines had a decent run from 1985 to 2007. They had a winning record every year. Then the wheels came off with a new coach/coaches. The team was a cumulative 46-42 over the next seven years — barely a winning record.

In came former UofM player Jim Harbaugh, who had recent success in the NFL. When he arrived, there was not much talent in the locker room. He did not say that there was a lack of high school football talent in the state of Michigan — there is. He did not say that high school football coaches were in players’ ears recommending they go to different schools.

No, the football coach stepped up recruiting. He worked incredibly hard and had “out-of-the-box” thinking to bring talented players to Ann Arbor. The results have followed. In his fourth year, with his recruits up and down the roster, he has the Wolverines ranked fourth in the country with a berth in the playoffs a strong possibility. At least, he did at press time. But anything can happen in college football.

What does this have to do with HVAC you ask? Everything. HVAC contractors should be recruiting young talent with the energy and creativity of Harbaugh. As an industry veteran recently told me about workforce development, an industry problem does not need to be a local problem for a particular contractor. An HVAC contractor can only grow as fast as he can put people in the trucks.

Here are some ideas I have heard from contractors in regard to different ways to recruit young talent.

  • Breakfast: A contractor provides breakfast for their employees every morning and has seen his average ticket go up. I know I am a lot slower and more lethargic on an empty stomach. The employees are coming into the shop in the morning anyway. With time always an issue, a lot of people skip breakfast. This is a cheap and easy way to set yourself apart from the contractor down the street.
  • Facilities: A leader of a major contractor association told me about this one. When you think of college football, some of the greatest recruiters are the facilities on campus. Weight rooms, practice facilities, and of course, a great stadium. The same can be said for a young trade school graduate looking for their first job. Of course, a small HVAC contractor can’t compete against a school in one of the Big Five conferences. But that contractor only needs to compete with other local businesses.

    How about a technician’s lounge? Some video games, a foosball table, and a fridge. Keep it well-stocked with soft drinks and snacks. To be honest, it doesn’t even matter if they use it. All they need is to see it when you are recruiting them. If you have it and nobody else does, it certainly gives you an edge.
  • Events: A contractor in Arizona has “Spirit” weeks at their company. The latest involved an industry-themed pumpkin carving contest. Each department presented its creation. Scheduling interviews the days of these events certainly shows job candidates that your company is a fun place to work.
  • Life skills training: A contractor hired someone to teach employees important life skills like financial management. While this might not be the most powerful recruiting tool to get people in the door, it will probably help prevent them from walking out. How many technicians have changed jobs for just an extra dollar per hour? Maybe this prevents that from happening.

Perhaps you have your own ideas of how contractors should step up their recruitment game. If so, email them to me at kylegargaro@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 11/19/2018

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