Ask a group of contractors whose job is it to recruit technicians into the HVACR industry. The overwhelming response is “instructors at community and technical colleges.” There are numerous problems with this scenario. Most HVACR programs have one full-time instructor, who runs a day program, a night program or, in many cases, both. Many schools hire adjunct instructors who have full-time day jobs and teach classes in the evening. In both scenarios, there is very little, if any, time to go out and recruit. Even if every instructor could free up one full day a week, they would still have the overwhelming task of visiting the 37,000 plus high schools in the United States.
People often complain about how difficult it is to get people into our industry. The schools point to the contractors, while the contractors point right back to the schools. The truth of the matter is that the recruiting of technicians into the HVACR industry is the responsibility of everyone involved in the HVACR industry, including contractors. Contractors can easily get involved in the process by participating in Program Advisory Committee meetings and educating the public about the exciting opportunities in the HVACR industry.
Employers, Visit High Schools
Employers know what they want in an entry-level technician. No one knows more about their business and the type of employees they want than they do. Teachers are not on the front line, they are. Nobody can convey their thoughts and ideas to potential employees better than they can! By visiting some schools, employers can share their HVACR success stories, while debunking many of the myths that surround the trades. For far too long, parents and guidance counselors have been telling students that they need a college degree to become successful in life. Being armed with reliable data will help the truth come out.
Employers, Join a Program Advisory Committee (PAC)
It is no secret that HVACR employers have lots to juggle in their busy daily schedules, but those who participate in Program Advisory Committee meetings can see potential technicians in action and evaluate their inherent talent, temperament and work ethic while still in school. Through participation, employers have a front row seat to see if students are a good fit for their organization. In addition, participating in internship or apprenticeship programs provides another opportunity to see their talents in action, prior to employment.
Grow your Program through Non-Traditional Means
The HVACR industry often struggles to get the word out about what a great opportunity is awaiting our future technicians. We must find unique and non-traditional ways to recruit new talent. One such example would be having the HVACR program host an event that offers food and fun activities run by the PAC members. Because of the event, potential students are being brought into an HVACR lab where they may have otherwise never had visited. This is a golden opportunity for contractors and other industry partners to sell potential future technicians on the opportunities that await them in the HVACR industry.
Another idea would be to judge at a First Lego League tournament or host it at the HVACR program. First Lego League is where students build robots that use motors, gears and sensors to accomplish various tasks. To complete the tasks, they make decisions on gear ratios, number of motors needed, use color and sound sensors, and most importantly, they need to critically think through problems to achieve their goals. Take a moment to watch a First Lego League video online. In doing so, you will want to recruit these students to become technicians after watching their critical thinking skills. This is a long-term plan, but it’s non-traditional and one cannot do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result each time.
Educate Friends, Family and Neighbors
Word of mouth has always been the best (and least expensive) form of advertising. But who said that the advertising must come from others? Throughout the course of the day, we all interact with friends, family, neighbors, and people working in many different fields. All HVACR contractors have great stories to tell about our industry, so why not share them? We know that our industry is a great industry to be in, but we all need to tell others how great it is too!
To truly fix a problem to your satisfaction, one must be part of the solution. This includes recruiting the next generation of HVACR technicians. In summary, middle and high school students need to know they can secure a lucrative career in one of the fastest growing fields that cannot be exported or automated, and can pay just as much as, if not more than, most jobs requiring a 4-year degree.