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What Is Your Pledge?

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When I started in the industry in 1989, the time that it took to be able to perform diagnostics and repairs or do a simple installation on residential systems could be measured in weeks and months, usually with a high degree of success. Fast forward thirty years and everything has changed, the equipment, the tools, the techniques and most importantly, the people and along with that is the time needed which is now measured in years.

It’s no secret that we have a lack of skilled craftspeople, we hear about it everywhere and unfortunately witness it first-hand every day, we need more people to enter the HVACR trades. So, then the question becomes “What do we do with these people once they have entered the trades,” and more importantly how do we help them to develop into the skilled craftspeople that our industry and our clients demand. This is where the professional HVACR contractor can distinguish themselves from the competition.

On July 25th, ACCA was invited to the White House to participate in the one-year anniversary of the President’s “Pledge to American Workers.” Along with Bart James, the CEO of ACCA, and Louis Serrano, a service technician with Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, I was also invited to participate. I was honored to help represent the fine men and women of ACCA. The Pledge is a commitment from President Donald Trump to strengthen the American workforce by having a signed commitment from companies all over the country to hire and educate the next generation of American workers. It is estimated that the lack of skilled trades people will cost the US economy $1.2 Trillion over the next decade in lost productivity.

On the national level there is a lot going on because of the pledge. There is a significant effort to help create Apprenticeship programs so that those who are entering the skilled trades have a process by which they can learn and develop the skills necessary to be successful. There is funding from several resources at the federal and state level to assist in the establishment of training programs and there are numerous technical training programs that are either expanding or being created. All of this is wonderful news, but it still comes down to the HVACR contractor making a commitment to their organizations and their employees to provide access to the education and training that is needed.

How much do you budget each year for employee education? Without a budget, there is no commitment and with no commitment, nothing will change. Do you provide your employees access to the resources that can help them develop the skills that they need to progress in their careers? If there is no time scheduled for education, then how important is it to you as the owner and if it’s not important to you how important would you expect it to be to your team. When it comes to the dollars associated with education and development it would be reasonable to budget between 2 percent – four percent of sales volume.If you currently have no budget start low and build it up over time.

The good news is that there are resources out there and they are accessible to all of us. There is unlimited access to training software, on-line education programs such as ACCA’s Q-tech, live presentations, community college and technical school programs, local chapter training events, in-house programs such as Isaac University or Build-A-Tech, manufacturer and distributor educational classes and ACCA partner programs. How about teaming up with a handful of your competitors to bring someone in to offer a training program for your combined teams, we need to work together to make this possible.

People ask me “Where do I start” when it comes to a creating a training program and the response I have given is to create a simple program based on your maintenance checklist, expand on each of the items and develop it from there. I am going to challenge my previous thinking and change that first step in employee education to creating the budget. The budget is the documented and paid-for commitment from the owner of the company to educate and train your people. I am going to suggest that the second step be that you create a schedule based on the amount of money that you commit and the number of hours that allows for. This schedule, once it is shared with your team shows them that you are committed to their success. From there you can develop your own program or utilize one of the several that I had mentioned earlier.

What is your pledge? What is the commitment that you are going to make today, at this very moment to your people to help them advance their careers? Waiting doesn’t make it go away and only allows the gap to grow wider, we need to do something now.

Together we can make a difference in the lives of our employees and their families.

Eric Knaak

Posted In: ACCA Now, Uncategorized

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