It is the middle of summer and HVACR contractors are working overtime to provide indoor comfort services across the country. Contractors are running crews between service calls and installations, working hard to ensure customers aren’t discomforted during these hot months.
As President and CEO of ACCA, I know many contractors cannot find enough technicians and installers to meet the demand for service each summer. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 150,000 HVACR technicians will be needed by 2022.
We are in the middle of a skilled labor drought that we must address. In fact, ACCA’s 2017-2018 Chairman of the Board, Don Langston of Aire Rite Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, has ensured that this issue will be the focus of his ACCA chairmanship.
To address this issue, ACCA will be working to help change the message about technical education and skilled trades. For many years, parents and educators have been sending the wrong message to students about the trades. Too many guidance counselors and teachers say that students should either go to a 4-year college or into the trades. Technical education should not be presented as an “either-or.” In doing so, the trades will continue to be looked down upon by students and parents.
Our industry should be presented to students as an opportunity – a life-long sustaining and professional career.
The HVACR industry is an opportunity. It is a modern technologically advanced industry that is essential for sustaining environmentally friendly growth. Advances in tools and technology have raised the bar from tinkering to advanced computer assisted diagnostics. As technology advances, the basic HVACR diagnostic skillset places technicians at the highest and most in-demand industry levels. With lateral transfers into design, sales, and management available, this career opportunity should be where the best and the brightest want to start. And, these technologically advanced jobs can never be outsourced!
Educators and parents should be teaching young people about the technological evolution in the trades. Our schools should identify students who excel in science, technology, engineering, and math fields and present to them the abundant energy efficiency, building automation, engineering, and environmental systems opportunities available in the HVACR industry.
ACCA is working with other educational trade associations, including the Association for Career and Technical Education, to help develop and deliver this culture-changing message. In order to succeed, every contractor must do his/her part too. Contractors should also be sharing this message when visiting schools for career day or during parent teacher conferences. It is important that educators and counselors see the technologically advanced and rewarding careers available in our industry.
ACCA is also increasing its presence with SkillsUSA, an organization that sponsors trade related competitions among the nation’s top technical students. SkillsUSA plays an important role in the development of high school and post-secondary students who have an interest in the trades. The organization helps schools that have technical education classes with curriculum development, civic engagement, and leadership training.
As part of our increased presence, ACCA is proud to coordinate with the Rees Scholarship Foundation, which has earmarked thousands of dollars in scholarship awards for the winners of SkillsUSA competitions. This is truly a great program that continues to empower young people who are helping fill the skills gap in the United States.
ACCA is also pushing Congress to act on federal legislation that would help our industry. If you missed ACCA’s May 2, 2017, government relations update, then you may be unaware that ACCA is vigorously advocating for Congress to reauthorize career and technical education (CTE) programs. It is time for schools to receive the same credit for sending students into skilled trade careers that they receive for sending them to colleges.
In a recent letter sent to all members of Congress, ACCA stated that, “Employers are reporting a shortage of skilled workers to fill in-demand positions. Modernized and relevant CTE programs, designed with the input of employers and responsive to the needs identified by labor market data, are central to overcoming this skills gap.” The letters goes on to state that, “CTE is an effective tool for improving student outcomes and helps prepare both secondary and postsecondary students with the necessary academic, technical and employability skills required to be successful in the workforce. CTE prepares students both for college and careers and are critical to meeting the needs of this new 21st century economy.”
There is a lot of work that needs to be done to attract young people to our industry. If you want to make a difference, consider some of the following ways to help: participate in career days at your local schools, make a donation to the Rees Scholarship Foundation, or join ACCA to help push Congress to take action. Most importantly, talk about the evolving opportunities that are available in the industry.
Thank you, I look forward to working with you on these very important issues.