How Contractors Can Secure the Future of HVACR
While the Covid-19 pandemic paused in-person learning for schools across the country, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in high school settings were left in a particularly vulnerable state. However, as some school districts have implemented later high school start times, many of those CTE programs have been cut from the 2022 academic year.
CTE programs, known for their hands-on instruction on skills encompassing different industries, including skilled trades and the HVACR industry, are essential to address the labor challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. However, should these programs lose more funding or face removal from the secondary curriculum, it is up to existing HVACR contractors to educate and advocate for younger generations in the profession.
Here are a few courses of action contractors can take to stimulate interest in HVACR and help secure the future of this industry:
Establish Relationships with Vocational Schools
Contractors can reach out to public schools, local vocational-technical schools, and community colleges to contribute to the class curriculum, offer time speaking or even teach classes to educate students on the profession. ACCA member and Operations Manager for Flame Heating, Cooling and Electrical, Matt Marsiglio, has a leg up on the recruiting efforts by teaching part-time at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan. Matt has taught various introductory and advanced courses on heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration, helping students learn relevant skills that directly transfer to a career in HVACR.
Over his 14 years of teaching, Matt has hired over 30 people out of the program, ranging from technicians to service managers.
“It’s really about giving back and watching people grow, whether it’s for the betterment of our company or the betterment of a competitor,” said Marsiglio. “To be able to share the knowledge you’ve gained over a 30-year career is kind of fun.”
ACCA member and Director of Business Development at HB McClure, Shelly Matter, is making strides for students to explore career paths within HVACR. Her passion for elevating awareness of careers in the trades is demonstrated by her active participation in Career & Technical Centers (CTC) and outreach to educators and school counselors on how to talk to their students about alternative careers in skilled trades.
“We get that a 4-year college program is not for everyone,” said Matter. “We have to start educating the students in elementary school and their parents, so that the trades are recognized as a viable, very highly demanded occupation for them.”
HB McClure is also committed to advancing hands-on learning opportunities within the organization through HB University, a training and development program utilizing internal and external resources to provide technical training.
Create Mentorship Opportunities
Offering shadowing and apprenticeship opportunities within your business are excellent ways for young people to see and experience contractors’ work in action and develop their interest in the profession.
Organizations such as HB McClure frequently offer tours, job shadowing, and internship opportunities for students interested in a career in the trades.
Meet Younger Generations Where They Are
Data from Pew Research Center regarding 2021 social media use indicates YouTube and Facebook as the top social media platforms among Americans. Other platforms like Instagram and TikTok resonate highly among people under 30, particularly young adults between ages 18 to 29. That said, it is pivotal to engage younger audiences on social media platforms by sharing HVACR success stories, creating user polls, filming day-in-the-life videos, creating a Q&A series, sharing industry-related news, and more.
“You have to be out, you have to share it on social media, you need to talk about it internally so that your team is comfortable talking about it externally,” explained Matter.
Advocate for CTE
With impending funding changes, program cuts, and staff shortages, contractors must double down on advocacy for policies that support CTE programs in secondary education. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who began automotive studies at a technical high school, is a proponent of high-quality CTE programs, as noted in his open letter to U.S. students and families. Contractors can do their part by engaging state policymakers on the importance of CTE. National non-profit Advance CTE has a tip sheet on how to get started.
Education in skilled trades is essential to bridge the skilled labor gap and aid in the economic recovery from the pandemic. ACCA members can start today to empower the next generation of skilled workers and HVACR professionals. Please visit ACCA’s Workforce Development Resources page for helpful, shareable fact sheets on HVACR career paths, benefits of CTE, and more.
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