After a recent successful post on LinkedIn, where I was promoting the hiring of apprentices from our Vocational Schools, I decided to do a bit of research that should not be too surprising to those of us within the HVAC and Plumbing industries. If you are in fact looking to make a career change or commitment this year - please read below and consider a fast growing, high reward job in the trades!
The recent press, pioneered by efforts like Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) and most recently in partnership with popular publicly broadcasted 'This Old House', has identified a real issue in the United States with something called a "Skills Gap". This is primarily the result of the push for our sons and daughters to go to college, and in a way steering them toward a more white collar job. Whether subconscious or not, this has resulted in a real crisis for most of the building trades, not to mention student debt, etc.. There is a real scarcity mindset in both the HVAC and Plumbing trades, consistent with Electricians, Carpenters, and Welders, that there are more skilled workers leaving the trades than coming in. This should serve notice as an opportunity!
- The most recent data gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) plans 15% growth in HVAC by 2026 (additional 49,100 jobs!).
- These are not minimum wage jobs either, ranging from $13.67 - $35.26 per hour. As a rule, the BLS estimates apprentices make approximately half of the wages as the experienced workers.
- Don't think you will be carrying tools or crawling through hot attics your entire career, although this may be your way 'in'...there were 332,900 jobs in HVAC for 2016, per BLS.
- What is interesting is that the BLS does not take into account posted job openings, even when considering growth. In a labor analysis report by HVAC/R Workforce Development Foundation, titled Heating up: The Sweltering Demand for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Workers, prepared by Burning Glass Technologies, in 2012 there was an estimated 220,734 HVAC job openings!
I attempted more than once to steer from the HVAC industry, which I owe for so many great things in my life. I reluctantly (forced by my parents) attended Minuteman Regional Vocational High School (Lexington, MA), which I hear is closing the doors on their HVAC Program next year, blaming low interest and enrollment. Th entire time I planned to go to college, which there was no way we could afford, so I entered the Marines to pay for college - only to have them make me a Refrigeration Mechanic (needs of the Corps!). I did eventually attend 7 years of night school to earn my Bachelor's of Science in Business Management, working as a Service Tech and Service Manager during the days. In case you didn't know, the GI Bill doesn't cover all of your education costs, so unless you saved well you will likely need to work after your enlistment too! After reaching what felt like my finish line, I realized I still had so much more to learn and embraced the HVAC trade. I later became a Technical Trainer for a Utility Program Implementer, before landing in my latest HVAC industry career stop as an Area Sales Manager for a leading Manufacturer.
I mention my stints in HVAC over the last 20 years not to brag, but instead to show that if you are not comfortable with your current job or apprenticeship role, there is so much more available and don't try to leave! Whether you are starting as an installer or maintenance technician, working for one of our many distributors behind the counter or in Sales, or even larger commercial/industrial service; there are so many opportunities in HVAC! I can only speak from personal experience, and hope this spurs a bit of interest.
If you are a student thinking about entering HVAC, looking for your first or next job in the industry, or a Contractor that wants to help our industry grow along with your business, look to get involved locally. Look for local organizations and events in your state that promote growth and can help at every level. As an example, I serve on the Board of Directors for ACA New England. We are hosting a Career Fair in Marlborough, MA on April 24, 2018 (Save the Date!).
I recently attended an event at ABCO in Somerville, MA that spurred this blog and conversation on LinkedIn. There I saw (350+) students from MA Vocational HVAC Programs. If you are looking for entry level apprentices, despite the scarcity mindset, there appears to be the next generation being trained and looking for employment. What was interesting over the last (8) years or so attending this event, the numbers are on the rise and more women every year! If there ever was an opportunity for women in the trades, HVAC is in dire need...
Let's continue the conversation! If you are a student, tell us what you are expecting coming into the trade. If you are a contractor, what qualities are you looking for in an apprentice? Distributor or Manufacturer, what skills are needed to succeed? Do you not want your children to continue the family business in HVAC - why?