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HVAC’s Aging Workforce: Lack of Technology to Blame for Lack of Recruits?

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HVAC’s Aging Workforce

What is Next for the HVAC World as the 21st Century Surges Forward


Many HVAC professionals from the Baby Boomer era and the days of ‘duck and cover’ are either settling into, or are preparing for a peaceful, relaxing retirement, some estimates say somewhere around 40 million may, in fact retire over the next 10 years. While we are happy to see our retirees enjoy a happy retirement, an emerging industry problem is increasingly materialising:


There is a growing shortage of new workforce recruits to replace the aging breed.


Even though the job of an HVAC contractor is regarded highly, pays well, offers terrific benefits and has been ranked as top career, the new workforce simply does not see the field as a viable, rewarding, or successful career.


Ann Kahn, president of Kahn Mechanical Contractors in Dallas, TX has been quoted saying (in relation to the industry’s aging problem)


“Unless we are able to devise a way to demonstrate to high school students that they can make a good living at the trade,” she said, “there is only one word to describe the HVACR industry’s future workforce…aging.”


Additionally, according to Employers in the HVAC industry indicated three important challenges:


  1. A relatively high portion of HVAC workers are older and will retire in the near future. A recruiter for the HVAC industry indicated that even under a flat employment scenario, where little to no new jobs are added, HVAC recruiters will keep busy replacing individuals who are leaving the industry.


  1. The pipeline of young workers is not as strong as it once was. Based on discussions with industry experts, unions are the most engaged in recruiting new talent. They indicated that they have more than enough work to keep recruiting new people for the foreseeable future. Non-union employers indicated similar needs in terms of recruiting and developing new workers.


  1. HVAC equipment is changing and can require new skill sets for technicians in both servicing and repairing the products. Industry experts indicated that smaller firms may have a greater challenge as they try to keep their workers up-to-date on multiple new products that are coming into the HVAC arena. Unions indicated that they are working closely with HVAC manufacturers to ensure they understand any and all changes in HVAC equipment. (Keep this particular challenge in mind).


Could the shortage be attributed, in part, to the lack of employed technology?


This may be a relevant and integral part of the issue. When you take a look at current economic issues and policies make it harder to retire (so much so that the manufacturing of ergonomic equipment for an aging end-user is on the rise) and a ‘set-in-our-ways’ business model, it begins to make sense that young people who have grown up never knowing what a tape deck is or who don’t want to watch anything but ‘blu-ray’ movies shy away from a ‘paper and pencil’ approach to business. With silicon valley, the internet age and the dot com gold rush, those reluctant to change may be left behind. Perhaps this is what we are seeing.


While every career far from needs to have the glitz and glam of Las Vegas, technology does need to be embraced, employed and utilized. Not only to usher in the new age of workforce, but also to capitalize upon and usher in the new era of doing business as a whole.
From a business perspective we’ve seen many instances where we get a push back from those set in their ways, reluctant to change and a refusal to try something new, in some cases it is fine and no one is asking for a radical change in business tactics. However, the squeeze is being felt by the industry and it will begin to change no matter what, it is simply the way of the world so embracing the advances in technology and learning about what it has to offer and maybe even trying something new may just help to usher in the new era of HVAC along with the new era of contractors.

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