A big problem faced by hiring managers in the HVAC industry is the field’s decline in popularity among of millennials, who view this area of mechanical engineering as strenuous and unfruitful. According to a 2009 Rigid survey, the number of high school students who considered majoring in HVAC had dropped to 6% — not the kind of figure that bodes well for an industry struggling to replenish itself.
Women and Minorities in HVAC: The Need for Outreach
Even though women comprise approximately half of the U.S. population, men account for at least 99% of the HVAC workforce. Considering the industry’s dwindling numbers, one can only wonder why there hasn’t been more of a push to bring women into this line of work. After all, a lot of the work that an HVAC technician performs is done at residential households where women are likelier to be home during daytimes.
As with many outbound trades, women clients could potentially feel more at ease when visited by female technicians. If more women become involved in HVAC work, it could serve as a boon for the industry’s public relations.
It’s no secret that women now surpass men in U.S. college enrollment. Despite this, efforts to court female students in traditionally male-dominated areas of study have remained lackluster. In all fairness, the unglamorous stereotype of mechanical work is typically deemed unappealing by young people in general, but especially among young women, who tend to gravitate toward professions viewed as “white collar.” Those who enter the more hands-on trades tend to do so only after having abandoned the pursuit of something seemingly more lucrative.
The HVAC industry has also seen a disproportionate shortage of ethnic and minority talent entering the field. As with the shortage of women, the relative lack of non-white technicians deprives the field of communication in certain communities where English is barely understood or only spoken as a second language. While the stereotype of HVAC work as a masculine profession might be easy to imagine, the industry’s lack of cultural diversity is more confounding. Clearly, not enough outreach has been done to bring a wider range of students into this field of study, and the industry is suffering as a result.
The HVAC Industry: Myths vs. Facts
Common conceptions of what HVAC work actually involves are also largely unfounded. While the demands for an HVAC technician can sometimes involve strenuous, hands-on work, a lot of hours are actually spent communicating and problem-solving in professional settings. The latter types of working scenarios are liable to increase as field technology continues to develop in the coming years. In fact, the field itself has become more scientifically oriented due to the growing complexity of HVAC technology, which relies heavily on engineering skills like equipment maintenance.
Companies that need new HVAC technicians should reevaluate the message that’s being telegraphed to young people regarding the nature of this field. For starters, the method of advertising should be revised in a manner that would attract more than just the typically white male students who are predisposed to science-minded, hands-on technical pursuits.
Organizations with major stakes in the HVAC market should collaborate with learning institutions to court young men and women who might not otherwise consider this field as a viable career option. In doing so, the stigmas attached to HVAC technical work could fall by the wayside as more people come to recognize this field as prestigious and lucrative.
In order for the HVAC industry to replenish its numbers, the stigmatization of the trade’s work as rugged and un-profitable needs to be counter-messaged. For one thing, the average salary of a skilled HVAC technician is fairly lucrative. So how much do HVAC techs make? Pay scales generally start around $45,000 and — for those who truly excel in the field — can ultimately surpass $100,000.
12 Tips for Building and Maintaining an HVAC Workforce
Among many company heads, there’s a growing consensus that it’s better to develop in-house HVAC talent than to hire veterans of the field. The logic is based on a simple premise: Since qualified technicians are hard to come by, why would another company let any of its workers go, unless there were major issues with a certain individual? In any event, the following tips can help ensure you only hire the best of the best for positions on the HVAC team:
- Set your values in stone.
As a company, it’s crucial to firmly state what values you collectively represent and go about finding employees who will both uphold those values on the job, as well as embrace them as personal mottos in everyday life.
- Get new prospects in their prime.
A person who’s worked for many years at another company is likely to be somewhat set in their ways regarding certain aspects of how a job should be done, whereas someone new to the field is likelier to be more adaptable regarding company methods and protocols. In order to rear employees in the culture of your company, it’s best to find them in the prime of their careers. You can find these prospects at career schools that feature programs of study in the HVAC technical trade.
- Trust the recommendations of team members.
Employees with a proven loyalty to company culture are likely to gravitate toward others in the industry who share those values. These referrals can be a goldmine of potential new employees, whose proven like-mindedness could make them perfect fits — especially considering that they’ll likely work extra hard to live up to the recommendations made in their favor.
- Forge contacts on all fronts.
When it comes to filling a team with skilled and qualified individuals, posting ads on bulletin boards is a time-tested form of outreach, but it’s far from the only way to net new prospects. The whole process should be thought of in terms of networking, where contacts are made on various fronts to draw the widest pool of talent. One of the ripest avenues is nearby schools, where career officers can keep you informed of the latest emerging HVAC prodigies. Form relationships with these officers and keep in contact on a semi-regular basis.
- Cut deals with education partners.
Anytime a new hiring prospect emerges from one of the local trade schools, it should be known among your contacts in said institute that their efforts toward rearing this talent and pointing them in your direction will be rewarded. On occasions when you do hire a fresh graduate, host a luncheon at the school or offer to hire interns from the HVAC study department.
- Conduct a strict screening process.
To ensure the people you bring on board are the perfect fit for your team, carry out tests designed to gauge a prospect’s talents at each level. With a series of written exams, oral exams, personality tests, and other compulsories, you’ll have a clearer idea of whether or not a given prospect has the professional talent and personal compatibility to be a team player.
- Promote the benefits of working for your team.
In order for people to want to join your team, they need to know the benefits — beyond a simple paycheck — of working on your team. If a skilled HVAC technician is on the lookout for new job opportunities, they want to know about the all perks and benefits of getting hired by your company. This applies especially in cases where the prospect in question is leaving behind a long, steady job to come work for you.
Therefore, in company pamphlets, literature, and social media, drive home the fact that your team maintains a happy, energetic, family-like atmosphere where everyone arrives each morning excited for a new day of work. Let it be known that your company has one of the friendliest and most supportive company cultures within the HVAC industry.
- Screen for character as much as skill.
When it comes to finding the right match from a pool of talent, skills can be taught, but good character is an inborn trait that either does or doesn’t exist in an individual. Given the stakes involved with certain lines of HVAC work, you can’t take chances — it’s crucial to know if the person you’re about to hire will be someone you can trust.
For instance, if one of your employees will be put in charge of supervising a high-security premises, that person will need to be thoroughly screened, submitted to a background check, and required to undergo a drug test. Likewise, if you’re hiring someone to be a public spokesperson for your team, they will need to have a friendly, outgoing personality and an upbeat attitude, regardless of the situation or interaction.
- Hire a full-time tech recruiter.
If you run a large company, each department needs its own full-time personnel, including the recruitment office. Even though a lot of companies defer this job to the human resources department, the people who work in HR generally have their hands full tending to the needs of preexisting staff. In order to get the best new prospects on board, there needs to be a staffer/s whose sole job is to screen for the best. Alternately, consider hiring an outside recruiting firm to bring the most skilled and qualified HVAC technicians to your door.
- Provide incentives for excellence.
Now that you’ve assembled a team of HVAC technicians, keep them reminded on a regular basis just how lucky they are to be working for your company. Every now and then, offer spiffs and rewards for reaching certain milestones. Nothing fights off stagnation and employee fatigue like a company that rewards its workers for doing well.
- Out pay your competitors in the industry.
Take note of what other companies are paying their employees on a rank-by-rank basis and set your pay scales slightly higher. Happy employees work hardest, which translates to a better brand in the marketplace. Even if price rates must be raised just slightly to accommodate the heightened pay scale, these differences will be offset by increased customer satisfaction.
- Keep your employment ranks positive and energized
A plentiful garden takes time to nurture, but weeds can be instantly spotted and taken out on sight. Likewise, a powerful workforce takes time to build, but bad apples are easy to sniff out and eliminate. Therefore, take time bringing each serious prospect through the screening processes to ensure they are the perfect fit, but don’t deliberate at terminating anyone who proves to be a weak link in the chain. With a positive working environment, your team of technicians will be happy to work for your company and will feel motivated to deliver the best in HVAC services to the general marketplace.
Things That HVAC Technicians Should Know When Working for Large Companies
When looking for HVAC technician talent, the average building owner might not understand the inner-workings of air systems. However, they will want a technician on hand with a mind for detail, an ability to communicate, and who has a proven track record for doing jobs right:
- HVAC tech is a highly detailed line of work. As an HVAC technician, you’re expected to diagnose problems at various locations whenever you get called upon for service. However, quick thinking skills are also needed to size up the condition of each air system and pinpoint possible defects before they spiral out of hand. Therefore, HVAC technical work requires a knack for detail as well as an ability to spot warning signs.
- Communication skills are as crucial as technical skills. In the HVAC industry, hands-on technical work is only half the job, a great deal of which also involves interactions with building occupants and residents. As such, you need to be comfortable talking to lots of different people throughout each day in order to learn of problems and give instructions on a given air system.
- Certification is a critical component of HVAC work. Even though few customers know much about what HVAC work entails, they do understand that credentials are important to handle something as vital to a building as its air system. That’s what makes it crucial to have a license to show customers when out on assignment — this lets people know you’re a legit, skilled, and qualified technician.
Continue Your Education in HVAC Tech
As technology evolves, so too do the necessities of the HVAC industry. In order to stay competitive in this field, it’s important to remain up to speed on the skill sets required by the latest technology. With continued studies in HVAC technical work, you’ll have the knowledge, skills, and credentials to stay in the game with each new development in this lucrative yet demanding field.
Founded in 2001 by a team of educators with more than 50 collective years of field experience, StateCE has helped more than a 100,000 students earn licenses for work in the trade industries. With more than 800 courses currently offered, StateCE programs are available online, nationwide. Visit the HVAC program page today to learn more about how StateCE can prepare you for career success as an HVAC technician.