Despite national unemployment still hovering near 10 percent, there are pockets of labor shortages where thousands of new positions go unfilled. One of the biggest: the field service and HVAC sectors, according to Mike Moore, Director of Training and one of the founders of HVAC Learning Solutions. An experienced trainer of technicians and managers alike, Moore explains the problems facing HVAC firms looking for talent, and what the industry as a whole needs to do to remedy the situation.
How do things look these days for hiring managers in the HVAC industry?
One of the problems that we have is that as an industry, we have to let potential employees know that there are opportunities out there. Because a lot of people when they’re growing up or they’re graduating from high school or college, they don’t necessarily think about the HVAC industry when they’re looking at their career choice.
So subsequently, the age of technicians in the HVAC industry is older. So you have people that are leaving the workforce and you have a shortage of technicians. I think we’re probably about 20,000 people short in terms of the techs we need. So the key is to catch young people whether they’re in junior high or in high school and let them know there are opportunities, so when they’re planning for their career they can at least give the HVAC industry a look.
So as long as you’re a qualified technician, the job outlook is pretty outstanding if you wanted to break into the HVAC industry.
Oh yeah, if you’re a person who has good technical skills and good people skills. It’s important to have the good people skills because when you’re in the customer’s home it’s just as important that you’re able to fix the customer as you are to fix the equipment. If you’re having somebody come out to your house because your equipment’s not working, on a hot day or cold day, you’re not really in the best of moods. So you want technicians showing up that can relate to that customer, put her at ease, and then fix the equipment.
Are those people skills something that you can even teach? How does one get a feel for if a technician’s a good person or not?
I think what you do is, the interview process is critical. So you maybe have them go through a multitude of interviews and get people’s impressions. You ask different type of behavioral-based questions that sort of lead you down that pathway. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes, but if you use an interviewing guide that’s based on behavior, usually you can get to the facts about that individual.
How do you get the message out to kids who aren’t yet thinking about possible careers?
We’ve gone to some career fairs, but one of the things we need to do as an overall industry is to get the manufacturers, the HVAC dealers and the HVAC trade associations to work together as one on an educational campaign to where we could put together a comprehensive plan to do this so it’s not hit or miss. We may be competitive with each other, but if we’re 20,000 techs short we need to figure out as an industry how to work together to get those younger people to look at the industry. One of the things that we probably need to work on as an industry is to get full cooperation over the broad spectrum. Maybe we put together an HVAC awareness month, or something where take a day, take a week where we go to these schools.