The United States labor shortage is having a major effect on most industries in the country and exacerbating existing supply chain problems. People tend to ascribe this shortage to the COVID-19 pandemic, but for the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Condition (HVAC) industry, that’s not the only answer.
Keith D. Clarke, who is the senior estimator and project manager for Eastern Maryland contracting and HVAC company Noland Mechanical, says that for his industry, part of the problem with staffing is the result of increasing demand for HVAC, in combination with a large part of the workforce, Baby Boomers, reaching retirement age.
Within the past several years, there have been an unprecedented number of changes in the environment, like record high temperatures and natural disasters. People who have experienced record high temperatures in homes or offices that aren’t equipped with proper air conditioning systems are desperate to avoid a repeat of that experience this upcoming summer, which puts pressure on the dwindling supply of HVAC techs to cater to an ever-growing demand.
So how has Noland Mechanical handled the shortage? According to Keith D. Clarke, they anticipate the labor shortage in the industry to worsen at least a little during the next few years. “There’s an unfair concept that skilled trades are somehow less valuable than academic pursuits,” explains Clarke. “Trade workers are actually very necessary to the infrastructure of the U.S. and the comfort and safety of its people.”
One way of attracting workers is by increasing awareness of the industry’s benefits. One of the big ones is sure to appeal to younger people trying to decide whether they will attend college after graduating high school. This typically means that students will be signing up for a mountain of debt that they’ll struggle to pay off, especially with ever-rising interest rates seemingly designed to keep people in debt indefinitely.
Letting potential workers know that the pay for the industry is comparable with the United States’ median income– and compared to the entry-level jobs and internships students often have to take after graduation, it’s even better.
Plus, people entering the trade receive training that costs less than a quarter of the average college tuition, which means that they can start working and making money much more quickly than students attending a four-year university– all without having to worry about making loan payments.
Another way that Noland Mechanical is handling the labor shortage amid growing demand is by dismantling the conception that HVAC work is all hard physical labor. It’s true that being in good physical shape helps if you’re a technician, but technician jobs are not the only part of the industry. “There are administrative and managerial positions that need to be filled, too, at lots of places,” says Keith D. Clarke.
Ultimately, Noland Mechanical’s plan for the future is to increase recruiting of younger people. The draw of no student loans, paired with a good income, is sure to motivate Gen Z and Millennials to pursue training. Because younger generations grew up with the advent of technology and the internet, they’ll be in a great position to keep up with increasing technology advancements in the industry– like motion-activated climate control systems, programmable smart systems, and even virtual reality training.
Keith D. Clarke feels positive about the future for Noland Mechanical and the HVAC industry in general. Increased demand means more jobs, and more jobs helps the economy. It seems that in a world full of economic turmoil, the HVAC industry will be sticking around for a long time yet.