The struggle in the United States is just beginning regarding our lack of Tradesman. When I see ordinary citizens post concerning comments in local newspapers and Facebook about our trades and labor shortages, you know we are just entering a crisis. Every day I speak with companies that would hire a competent (notice the word choice here, not a Journeyman) worker if they could just find them! Needless to say, this is not a new problem in HVAC, which extends from Apprentices, Installers, and Service Technicians to even Sales and Management. So, here is my pitch to anyone considering the HVAC trade: Become a Master in just 5 years!
Not too long ago, Malcom Gladwell, Author of “Outliers”, wrote that ‘ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness’. Further expanding on this notion, Malcom says, “you need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.” Of course, he was referring to several successful musicians and businessmen, like the Beatles and Bill Gates. Let me try and break this down for a Tradesman…
The ordinary U.S. work day is approximately eight hours, even though an HVAC Service Technician could argue this is much longer in peak seasons. Given five days a work week, and discounting two weeks of vacation in a year, most Americans are planning to work (251) days or (2,008) hours annually. This means it could take you about (5) years of apprenticeship to be good.
What if you went to a trade school for HVAC, like myself? This will give you about a year head start. Most trade schools, and post-secondary career schools, offer HVAC Programs that amount to about (1) year worth of hours. This will then leave you with approximately (4) years of apprenticeship. See where some of these licensing requirements now line up? No matter what these Instructors and Schools may sell you, you only possess the minimum skill and knowledge to be employed at this point. The opportunity to have a career is just beginning, and your wages will reflect this, no matter your age, sex, or disability.
Here is where things get interesting: Supply vs. Demand. Guess what can never be outsourced to another country? Your acquired knowledge and skills in a service industry that is in every apartment, home, commercial building, etc. Yes, our HVAC Industry changes rapidly, always innovating and requiring lifelong learning - but here in lies the opportunity! More people are retiring from the HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing, and Carpentry trades than entering every day. What does this mean in a Capitalist Economy? Increased wages and pricing for trades that are a necessity. I happen to work for one of the most innovative manufacturers in the world, and I continue to see a younger generation take interest in our technology over software jobs and the like.
Where else could you learn a profession, be good in 5 years, and be paid while you are learning? Think about it, our country sends young adults off to college at alarming numbers, for four years or longer, to learn a profession and ready to be employed under tremendous debt (now reaching $1.5 Trillion!). Don’t get me wrong, I finished my Bachelor of Science in Business Management after seven years of night school - all while working full-time in my trade and getting paid a fair wage. During this time, becoming ‘good’ at many required technical skills.
Now that we are beginning to attract young talent into the HVAC trade, let’s work on training and development instead of buying another company’s faculty. Take on an apprentice, in four to five years you may have a Master in the Industry!