Let me know if you have heard one of these statements before when discussing the workforce development problem that is facing the HVAC industry:

  • High school students these days are not interested in the trades.
  • Parents of high school students only want their kids to go to a four-year university.

I am sure you have heard both these statements many times. In fact, you might have said them yourself. However, is this perception or reality?

According to a recent survey commissioned by StrataTech Education Group, a company focused on the education, growth, and development of specialized career education schools, more people are interested in considering the trades than the industry might realize. The survey included 2,000 respondents, half of which were current high school students and half of which were parents of current high schoolers.

Here are some stats that jumped off the page when I read the survey:

  • 93 percent of parents said they would support their children’s choice to pursue a career in the skilled trades.
  • 62 percent said they would emotionally support that choice.
  • 57 percent indicated that they would offer major financial support to fund a majority of the education.
  • 51 percent of students shared they have considered attending a trade school.

Now, there are a few items to unpack here, but I want to focus on that 51 percent number. Undoubtedly, the industry would like to see that higher. That only half of the students even consider the trades could be viewed as a problem.

There were a few reasons they gave for not considering. The highest answer given — 33 percent — was not knowing the option was available. That is a problem the HVAC industry has been fighting for some time, and they are beginning to make inroads. Getting the word out about the industry and all it has to offer is a solid way to counteract this issue.

The second answer is a bit more troubling — 26 percent said it was due to a lack of confidence in the ability to perform a skilled trade.

Now, some people are just not mechanically inclined. I get that. But I don’t believe that number should be a quarter of the people. Rather, I believe these people have not been given the opportunity to work on this talent.

As a father to two boys, I realize that their lives are much more hectic and scheduled than mine ever was as a child. We live in Michigan, and for my oldest, somehow his baseball team has become a 10-month sport. Throw in football and a slew of other activities, and there is not a ton of down time … down time that previous generations might have spent learning how to fix things around the house with their father.

And let’s be honest, I am doing a lot less around the house than my own father did. With the increasing demands of the job plus attending a majority of the aforementioned baseball games, it has just gotten easier to hire someone to fix things around the house rather than perform the work myself.

This can cut both ways for HVAC contractors. On one hand, it is good news, because the busier we get, the less likely homeowners are going to become a “do it yourself” type person. However, we are also cultivating a generation of individuals who think mechanical aptitude is beyond them.

It is incumbent on those in the trade to show that generation that they just might have talent to perform this type of work. The survey showed 70 percent of the students indicated their school currently offers classes in the trades. But how good are those classes, and exactly what are they teaching? That is something an HVAC contractor can certainly get involved with.

The industry cannot just assume that these skills are being passed on from teachers or parents.

See more articles from this issue here!