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Help Wanted: The HVACR Industry Faces an Annual Deficit of 17,000 Service Techs

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Service techs are the point of the spear. They’re the men and women who deal directly with business managers and homeowners and the ones everyone expects to quickly find and repair all types of comfort-related problems. Because service techs usually run several trouble calls every day, they have a huge influence on client satisfaction, social media referrals, and the online reputation of both contractors and manufacturers.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 332,900 HVACR (mechanics) service technicians and installers were employed in 2016. If 50 percent of those were installation techs, that results in about 170,000 service techs currently working in our industry. Let’s be conservative and say 10 percent retire, change careers, move into management, or otherwise stop working as techs. That means the HVACR industry needs to add about 17,000 service techs per year to stay even. To grow we will need to add even more.

Where Are the Techs?

People with math and science skills are in high demand. Service techs utilize these skills to apply their knowledge of thermodynamics, psychrometrics, and principles, such as Ohm’s Law. After scientific information is collected, mathematical calculations are made to solve problems. A different set of skills is required to complete repairs. Service techs often need the skills of electricians, plumbers, welders and electronics specialists to fix a myriad of problems. Think about how many industries need people with the same package of math, science, and technical skills. As more industries compete with us for service techs, we need to offer powerful incentives like Rees scholarships.

Training Service Technicians

We need to use every proven method to train future service techs. On the job training (OJT) and apprenticeship programs are established ways to train HVACR service technicians. These training programs are designed to allow students to spend more time learning and earning in the field, so it typically takes longer to gain knowledge that is best learned in the classroom. The quickest way to become qualified to as an HVACR service technician is by attending an accredited course at a junior college or technical schools.

REES Scholarship

Many high school seniors are unsure what they want to do in the future. As they search for scholarships, imagine if they find one that provides up to $2,000 to become an HVACR technician. For the first time in their lives, they’re now seriously considering a career in the trades.

The Rees Scholarship application process helps candidates discover if becoming an HVACR tech is right for them. Applicants must answer background questions, write a 500-word essay, and provide letters of recommendation. Official high school, college, or university transcripts are also evaluated. The more Rees scholarships we offer, the less severe the service technician shortage will be.

The Rees Scholarship is named after Air Force Lt. Gen. Clifford H. “Ted” Rees Jr., a F-105 combat pilot, renowned leader, and former president of the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI) before it merged with the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association to become Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI.)

The Rees Scholarship Foundation has awarded more than $700,000 to 400-plus deserving students since 2003. Each year, the foundation awards scholarships of up to $2,000 each to qualified students who are enrolled in an HVACR program at an accredited institution. Scholarship recipients also receive a free Ready to Work test through a partnership with North American Technician Excellence (NATE).

You Can Change the Future

Are you one of the contractors, manufacturers, distributors, or others who have made a great living in the HVACR industry and want to pay it forward? If 680 of us gave $5,000 annually, we could fund 1,700 Rees Scholarships every year.

With 2018 business tax rates dropping from about 35 percent to 20 percent, companies and individuals suddenly find they have unplanned income to invest. To Invest in the future of your company and the health of our industry, visit and make your tax detectable donation today.

For more information visit

This article was originally published in Distribution Center magazine, March 22, 2018.

Steve Howard

Posted In: Management

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