David White, director, Advanced Robotic Technology, Brisbane, Australia, said every student with a technical aptitude has a desire to work with computers. We need schools to return to exposing kids to relevant industries where the scope for employment exists.
“There are now a lot of cool machines that take drawings and turn them into ducting and other components. We are finding that it is a real buzz for kids to actually produce something they can feel and touch from a computer drawing.”
Whole-home performance and energy-efficiency skills are also on the rise. Lincoln Technical Institute, Union, N.J., officials said their energy auditing certification course is currently attracting more attention than any other offering.
HVACR curriculum council chair and education supervisor, Lincoln Technical Institute said “The future of the HVACR industry is based on the newer technicians’ ability to adapt and learn the industry’s latest innovations. As our industry evolves to a higher technological era, newer technicians will need to meet those advanced technologies with an open mind and sound HVACR knowledge.”
In addition to these new-world skills, Kevin Couch, HVACR instructor, R.G. Drage Career Technical Center, said young learners should not forget that the HVACR trade will continue to be based on old-fashioned, hands-on labor. Yet technological attractions will create the interest for young careers,
All of the skilled trades are facing a severe shortage; from bakers, roofers, stucco and plasterers, HVACR, electronic repair, electricians and plumbers, we all need skilled people,” he said. “Shortages specific to the HVACR sector reached that critical level a few years back. Why? because all the vocational-tech schools shut their doors the world was going to be run by computers. Now, who can fix the furnace or air conditioners? No one, because no one wants to do the manual work and we have not introduced our future work force to the controls being designed and installed in HVAC systems.
Recruiting the Next Generation
Industry members also stress that the combination of new and old skills needed — and the excellent career opportunities in HVACR — must be promoted in order to recruit more young people to the trade.
Steve Dodd, MEP advisor and director of service and energy, Fidelity Engineering Corp., Washington, D.C., referenced several new skills becoming relevant in the HVAC sector.
“These skills include technology, intelligent devices, green, financial influence, stability, health effect, and more,” said Dodd. “First we need to educate guidance counselors as to these things since they start the influence process as early as middle school.”
Jeff Plant, general manager, Springfield Mechanical Services Inc., Springfield, Mo., believes HVAC work is more than just physical labor, and agreed that young students need to be aware of the many opportunities available in the industry at an earlier age
“The first thing people think of when they think of HVAC workers is the old labeling of the construction worker. Although that spot for installation and backbreaking work is never going to be replaced, there are many other avenues and opportunities that present themselves in this trade,” he said.
“If we want to attract younger people to this trade, we need to relate. Show them the wide array of opportunities that this trade offers. We as successful tradesmen need to visit the local high schools, help with local apprenticeship programs and share our stories.
“Today, students should learn thermodynamics, mechanical, electrical, hydronic principles, customer service, and sales skills,” we should return to past learning formats that served so well in preparation for the industrial age.
“We need to have technicians who can adapt to all the changes that have happened, and will happen in the those fields that hold promise for employment and enhanced quality of life.