Legend has it that if that famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he does not, he comes out of his hole and begins preparing for an early spring.

All across the HVACR trade, contractors are performing a similar ritual, although they might be unaware of it. Every year they look around for that ray of sunshine in the quest for qualified young people who want to go to work for them. Unfortunately, for many business owners, the search for new employees remains predictably frustrating.

The industry has tried all kinds of things to get young people interested in HVACR, yet they stay away in droves. Now, thanks to an organization that uses Groundhog Day as its rallying point, there is another way to give young people a glimpse of our trade.

Job Shadowing is an organization co-sponsored by Monster and the News Corp. The organization asks employers to sponsor jobsite visits during a "Groundhog Job Shadow Day" on Feb. 2, 2004. The organization states that "job shadowing gives over one million students across America the opportunity to ‘shadow' a workplace mentor as he or she goes through a normal day on the job. This gives young people a chance to see how the skills learned in school relate to the workplace.

"For students, job shadowing can become the link between academics and careers, answering the commonly asked question: ‘Why do I have to learn this?' For employers, job shadowing offers both an introduction to the workforce of tomorrow and the opportunity to help students explore career options - and share what it takes to achieve their goals."

I asked a spokesperson for Job Shadowing, Stuart Shapiro, if the kickoff of job shadowing is limited to Groundhog Day. "Anytime during the year is great," he said. "Wal-Mart does it in late February, and the entire city of Philadelphia has job shadow day in November."

Why Not HVACR?

I visited the organization's Web site (www.jobshadow.org) to see if I could find examples of companies in the HVACR trade that practiced job shadowing in 2003. I found none.

I did find some other interesting examples. In Los Angeles, Pepsi hosted approximately 40 senior students in each of four area locations. Participating students did not have plans to go to college. Pepsi hopes students' job shadowing opportunity will interest them in a career in beverage services. If students are interested after their shadowing experience, Pepsi encourages them to apply for jobs.

The Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) will soon coordinate its fifth annual Groundhog Job Shadow Day. Approximately 100 students from Northern Virginia High Schools will job shadow at 27 NVTC member companies, including Cisco Systems.

There is information at the Web site on how to participate, including a 50-page downloadable quick reference guide for employers. Make sure you check out page 28 and note the absence of the HVACR trade from the "career clusters."

Christine Friedt, who coordinates job shadowing for the Grand Rapids, Mich., chapter of Junior Achievement, told me that in her five years with the program she has never heard of participation by any HVACR business - and she'd like to hear from some.

"We have a program with high school students who are looking for careers where they work with their hands," she said.

Hmmm. OK, who's first?

John Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1294, 248-362-0317 (fax), or johnhall@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 01/26/2004