Did you know that in the United States there are currently 60 million college graduates? I found out about that recently when I attended MSCA’s Educational Conference in Dana Point, CA.

One of the educational seminars was called “Dealing With Generation X.” The instructor for this course, Russell Clough, is a construction management professor at Stanford University.

Clough cited this statistic for the attendees who were frustrated with the lack of young people entering the mechanical trades. Now on one hand, 60 million college graduates should seem like a great thing, right? Well, when you look at recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, it isn’t such a great thing.

According to labor stats, more than 70% of U.S. jobs do not require a four-year degree.

With this in mind, a contractor at the convention made a very simple point, but one that makes a great deal of sense. High school guidance counselors, he said, are not offering the opportunity for young people to get involved in a trade after graduation. There could be many reasons for this. They could be ignorant of the option, or they, like many people, judge success by attending a university and earning a degree.

This same contractor also said that guidance counselors push a four-year college because it not only shows the success of the student, but of the high school that produced that student. It is a great selling point for a high school to say that 90% of its students went on to higher education.

But do any of these high schools check up on these students after they enroll at a university? Some statistics also say that more than half of the individuals who go to college end up dropping out before graduation. Add that to the fact that more than 70% of jobs do not require a traditional degree, and you have millions of people in college or graduating from a college they never should have attended in the first place.

If you are serious about finding qualified employees, talk with the guidance counselors who help to influence the decisions young people are making.

In fact, if it helps, cut out this editorial and pass it on to your local high school.

Get The Word Out

Here are some other statistics that guidance counselors might find interesting:

  • 20,000 technicians are needed each year in the hvacr industry.
  • Starting salaries in hvacr range from $25,000 to $35,000 a year.
  • Jobs requiring only an associate’s degree are expected to grow by 33% through 2005.
  • According to Clough, Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1985. That means there are some individuals, born at the end of that period, who are still in high school. There are a number of traits Clough cites that distinguish this generation. I find them to be extremely interesting, and I can vouch for them to a certain degree because I do fall into that generation.

    Members of Generation X typically find technology to be extremely important, they have little faith in job security, and they make less money than their parents. Those in Generation X are typically burdened by the amount of financial loans they have from college and the current cost of living.

    You can find the reasons the experts give for these traits in the article on page 16, but the point I am trying to make is that Generation X seems more than suited for a career in hvacr.

    Technological growth in the hvacr industry is tremendous. Computer technology is used heavily now in the field — so much so that technicians are not just wrench-turners.

    The industry has great job security. The need for good technicians is so great that many contractors will be knocking down your door to hire you.

    The need for technicians has made way for higher pay and opportunities for advancement. Some contractors will pay for their technicians to earn an associate’s degree or to go through an apprenticeship training program so they can attain the skills that are required.

    We all need to start becoming advocates for our industry, but we may be preaching to the choir.

    The comments that contractor at the seminar made are valid and important. But what good does it do if we don’t talk to the people who need to hear those comments? People in the industry know what the industry needs. Those on the other side of the fence don’t. So it’s time we hop the fence and start telling guidance counselors, teachers, parents, students, and anyone else who will listen, what a career in hvacr is all about.

    When this is published, I’m going to cut it out and send it to my old guidance counselor. Maybe you should do the same thing.

    Siegel is training & education editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1731; 248-362-0317 (fax); siegelj@bnp.com (e-mail).

    Publication date: 10/29/2001