For their third mission, Blake, Brenan and Michael were challenged to help us bridge the skilled trades gap. We asked them to talk to the industry and their peers and to think about it themselves – then tell us what we can do as an industry to attract and retain talent, fight the stereotypes, and help others to understand the potential for success in the HVAC industry. Here’s how they suggest we bridge the gap:
Blake Hodge: Redefining HVAC
As many know, HVAC is a skilled trade. Even though it is a skilled trade, many still do not know the depths of HVAC and what people in this trade really do. As with any job, there are many stereotypes and problems finding workers to replace those ready to leave the workforce. For this mission, I decided to interview one of my professors and also Ferris’ HVAC program recruiter to get some ideas.
What can (and should) the industry do to recruit new talent?
We believe the industry really needs to work harder to get the word out about the diverse career paths within the HVAC field. With a degree in HVAC, there are many different job opportunities that are unique in their own way. The industry also needs to be in better touch with high schools to try to recruit new talent. Most high school students have the mindset that they have to become something like a doctor or a lawyer to become wealthy, which is not the case. Skilled trades present great job opportunities at great wages, but this is commonly not spoken of enough. This is something Ferris has done well when researching its program and is one of the main reasons I chose this career path.
What are the stereotypes the HVAC/skilled trades are battling against?
One of the main stereotypes related to the HVAC field is the type of work done. Most high school students, and even many adults, think of HVAC as the furnace or air conditioner in their home. They do not realize the complexity of the work done by people in the HVAC field. Another stereotype toward HVAC, and skilled trades as a whole, is that many people believe it is “dirty work” and that workers in these fields are not as intelligent as people in other job fields, like a doctors or lawyers. Although sometimes these jobs can be a little dirty, they are necessary to human life and are something that many cannot do. Some of the most intelligent people we have encountered are workers in a skilled trade. We believe this stereotype exists because there is typically less school to go through to be a worker in these fields. Less school does not necessarily mean less knowledge, but that is what people commonly believe.
Tell us why you believe the HVAC industry provides a great career path:
HVAC provides a great career path because of the shortage of workers in the industry and the high wages that are offered to fill these positions. HVAC will be needed for all of time, so there is also excellent job security. Another thing to love about the industry is the ability to learn and earn at the same time. There are many internships available for students still in school, which provide a great learning experience and help ease the costs of school at the same time.
After thinking about these questions and conducting interviews, I can honestly say that my desire to enter this field has been strengthened. Thinking about all the career paths and job openings there are makes me excited to graduate and get out into the field. Although I do not know which direction I want to go when I graduate, I know there will be plenty of great options to choose from.
Brenan Vogt: Recruit New Talent
To recruit new talent, companies must look for a certain type of person. Someone who is willing to put in long hours and complete laborious work would best fit this position. Most weeks you can expect to put in at least 50 hours if not more, so someone who is willing to put forth the effort is required. However, the industry battles stereotypes.
A stereotype that is well-known throughout all laborious jobs is that “only men can work in the field.” While there are several more men than women in the work force, this is becoming less and less true each year. I believe that the HVAC career path is an excellent choice for people because the field is in dire need of hard-working, young talent that is willing to go the extra mile. Along with this, the need for HVAC technicians will likely never decrease because people need heated and conditioned air.
Michael Clemons: A Wide Open World
To help “bridge the gap” as they say, I went out and interviewed my service manager, Scott. One of the topics we talked about was what can we do to recruit new talent into the industry. For myself, I believe that if we bring more attention to the trade, we could help recruit more people. In high school, I hardly knew about the HVAC field. Everyone knows about plumbers and electricians, but you only call an HVAC company when you go out and get your first house or apartment. I first learned about the trade when I was job searching and stumbled across a job posting for an HVAC apprentice.
We also discussed the stereotypes the HVAC trade is facing. A lot of people believe that the trade is all males. In a sense they are right, but I have started seeing a lot more women getting involved in the trade.
And why do we believe the HVAC industry provides a great career path? We both agreed that there are many paths you can take in HVAC. You could go commercial or residential; or how about becoming a service tech or an installer? There are more jobs than I could begin to imagine all designed around HVAC. That’s what make this industry amazing – if you can think of it there is probably a job for it.