Pardon me, I was just injected with a dose of wishful thinking. I drifted off for a moment and transformed my “In Box” into the judge’s bench from the movie classicThe Miracle on 34th Street(which, by the way, makes my top-10 list of all-time favorites — the original, not the deluge of remakes).

You remember the scene: The judge ordered defense attorney Fred Gailey to produce authoritative proof that his client, Kris Kringle, is the one and only Santa Claus. As a result, U.S. postal workers dumped thousands of letters addressed to the North Pole on the judge’s bench. He had overwhelming proof that won the case for Kringle and gave all of us a special feeling — just in time for visions of sugarplums to begin dancing in our heads.

OK, you can stop wondering what direction I’m taking with this monologue. I’m thinking about all of the trade school students just itching to send in their work-wanted ads for a chance to strut their stuff to thousands of contractors in the fraternity of News readers.

I say this as I open the first of what I hope will be many responses to our “Work Seekers” program.

In this recently announced program, graduating vo-tech students who are looking for careers as field installers or service techs are encouraged to send in a brief work-wanted ad to The News. The best ads will appear free in a special Work Seekers display ad, and the authors get a free one-year subscription to The News.

The first ad is from a young man in Pottstown, PA, who writes, “If my ad is selected, it would really help me out a lot.”

I happen to think the reverse is true. If his ad is selected, it will help out a contractor a lot.

I got a chuckle from my friend Roger Goertz of AireServ. He likes the idea of Work Seekers — so much, in fact, that he asked me to send him all of the ads that I don’t choose as winners. Now there’s a contractor who’s thinking ahead.

The success of this program will depend on the instructors and administrators who take an active role in passing along the idea to their hvac students, and then following up to see how many are interested in participating.

As contractors, I’d like to challenge you to “mentor” an hvac instructor in your area. Get the name of a vo-tech staff member who teaches hvac coursework or a counselor who advises students on their career paths. Make it a point to keep in regular contact with them.

By making that effort, you have “thrown your hat into the ring” of the employer pool — contractors who are interested in hiring students before, during, and after graduation from school. Work Seekers may open a new door for you and give you a direct pipeline to high school students in your area.

If no vo-tech schools in your area offer hvac training, let me know. I’ll be happy to “educate” the educators on the importance of hvac training and how a career in hvac can be rewarding, both on a professional and financial level.

Richard Almini, president of the Linford Service Co./GroupMAC, Oakland, CA, said, “Your idea of involving The News as an active participant in our recruiting efforts, and helping us address this single greatest challenge to our future business, has my full support.”

I hope I can count on the support of many contractors this year.

There’s a familiar cliché: “If you talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk.” Let’s walk the walk this year — and give the worker shortage problem our best shot.

I can already see that pile on my desk growing.