Encouraging Youngsters to Join This Industry

[Editor's note: The following letters are in response to John R. Hall's article "Young Service Tech Is Seasoned Pro," Feb. 6.]

Immersed at an Early Age
I took great pleasure in reading about Aaron Grace and his passion for the industry. I, too, worked with my father in the trade starting at an early age. If we could just influence more young people as to the benefits and rewards of this industry, we could eliminate the shortage that is staring us down right now.

Having a young person immersed in the trade at such an early age can only help but overcome the misdirection of our secondary school counseling system, which sends and prepares all students to continue through college versus [entering] a vocation.

Twenty-five years ago it was high-tech to work on cars in the garage and rebuild and modify their engines. Today's cutting-edge technology is computers and video games, to which our youth is exposed to from an early age. Use and mastering these tools direct them into white collar and desk-based jobs, as they have become comfortable with sitting hours in front of a screen versus working with their hands and minds.

But Aaron is the exception that is going up against a set of obstacles that he, his father, and the company have chosen to ignore at their own peril. I can see a dozen issues with child labor laws, workers' comp insurance issues, and out and out general liability issues, all exposed in the article. My goal is not to point out his violations but point out the obstacles that we, the industry, have in place that prevent us from growing our labor pool with more people starting at an early age.

I would elicit a dialog to get ideas as how to overcome this: How do we get the interest of someone 11- to 17-years-old and direct them in to our industry? If you have an idea, share it.

Matthew R. Prazenka
Vice President Operations
American Weathermakers Inc.
Northbrook, Ill.

Aaron Grace Learns a Trade
What a delight it was to read John R. Hall's article about Aaron Grace. My husband showed me the article, and our 10-year-old son read it, too. What a great job his parents have done to invest his time so wisely and for all the hard work Aaron has put forth to learn a skilled trade. Long ago, a young man would go into an apprenticeship to learn a trade. We need to revive this idea so that young people have the skills and work ethic that would provide for them and their families in the future.

Diana Tyree, Republic, Ohio

Residential Replacement Isn't Governed by the Economy

Being one that normally doesn't respond to surveys, it is unusual for me to respond to John R. Hall's article ["Are You Really Optimistic About 2006?"] in the Jan. 30 issue ofThe NEWS. However, I just couldn't resist. Housing starts, interest rates, etc. only affect those whose business "circles that wagon." And, since the manufacturers and a good number of contractors eagerly seek the RNC [residential new construction] market, the old saying applies, "Live by RNC, die by RNC."

Since joining better practices organizations and being coached to avoid RNC and pursue residential replacement, we have found our success is governed, not by the economy, but by our efforts in marketing as well as business and people management. RNC is slow (we, too, live in a depressed area) in our area, yet last year we grew over 25 percent. I think we had less than 3 percent of our business income from RNC. So, to heck with RNC and the low bidder madness. To heck with interest rates.

The sooner contractors become retail businessmen, the sooner the image of our industry improves and the sooner they are no longer at the mercy of interest rates, builders, or manufacturers, and the sooner their profitability becomes a function of their own business management.

Dennis Holland, Custom Heating
Camden, Tenn.

Send correspondence via e-mail to letters@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 03/13/2006