“Their appearance can be very scruffy and younger candidates often think they’re better than their skills would merit.”

“We see many technicians who wish to work on refrigeration only and will not touch a chiller.”

Contractors are no doubt familiar with such situations when dealing with technicians. And they may hear some of the following complaints:

“Too often, highly experienced technicians are treated by some companies as the lowest form of human life.”

“Far too often, companies only want guys who are already experienced and have done all the courses.”

There are times when contractors here in the United States wistfully look overseas, where things are more civilized, technicians are more dedicated, companies are more benevolent — or so they may think.

The problem is, all of the above quotes (and the ones that follow) come from the United Kingdom in a recruitment report from the consulting group Richmond Associates, published in the July 2002 issue of AC&R News (a British trade magazine with no ties to ACHR News or Business News Publishing). The report continues:

“The industry must remember that we are often talking about highly skilled and experienced people, most of whom are being offered salaries lower than a tube [subway] train driver (who only has to train a few months, not years).”

The point of low pay for a highly technical job is a familiar lament.

The article resonates with issues familiar to U.S. contractors: There are not enough young people entering the industry. Technicians need more training. Those that are highly trained aren’t paid enough. Some of the attitudes of technicians are difficult to deal with.

And just as we in the U.S. think things are better in the United Kingdom, the report goes on to quote some in the U.K. who lament that techs from other parts of the world receive superior training.

The point is that assuming things are better elsewhere may not be correct.

Here, then, are some solutions the U.K. industry is considering:

“The industry must try to sell itself to a new generation of people, people who have been brought up in a high-tech, digital world. Training and salaries need to be reviewed by the industry as a whole. We are in danger of not attracting the right people, possibly losing them to IT, electronics, or other industries where the rewards are higher.

“The industry cannot afford to leave education of future techs purely in the hands of the college. It must get more involved. Let’s face it: One of the best training grounds in the world is actually out on the road or on the site, with an old hand who can do the job blindfolded.

“Yes, there is much cost involved. But how much greater will that cost be if we do nothing?”

Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260; 847-622-7266 (fax); or peterpowell@achrnews.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 10/07/2002