How HVAC Contractors Can Combat the HVAC Talent Shortage
Author: Brett Knox
August 2, 2023 - 4 MIN. READ
HVAC contractors, just like electricians, have been grappling with a challenging labor market. And according to industry experts, even more severe shortages of HVAC talent are expected, reaching up to 40% in the next ten years. The average age of plumbers, HVAC technicians, and electricians is currently around 57, indicating a significant upcoming departure of skilled veterans from the workforce. As a result, approximately 22% of the labor force will be exiting within the next decade.
At the same time, the HVAC industry is growing at a rate of 10-15% annually. In addition, federal laws recently enacted, like the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) with its extensive federal incentives, are expected to drive electrification efforts, like heat pumps replacing A/C units, furnaces and water heaters, adding to the need for skilled technicians familiar with the technology. This is on top of changes in permissible HVAC refrigerants that introduce new complexities for technicians to absorb.
The HVAC industry finds itself in a perilous predicament, as it grapples with an escalating business demand and a scarcity of skilled HVAC professionals. Urgent changes are necessary for HVAC contractors to navigate this challenging landscape successfully.
The Impact of the HVAC Talent Shortage on Industry
As the demand for HVAC services continues to rise, it is crucial for contractors to address the labor issues in order to maintain the high level of craftsmanship, promptness, and efficiency that the industry demands. Failing to do so may result in a skills gap between experienced technicians and new hires, compromising the overall quality of work.
Job safety may also suffer due to a lack of experience and training. Accidents are expensive in human terms and can lead to delays due to OSHA investigations, and at the least, take administrative time for reporting and higher Workers' Compensation insurance costs. In addition, as demand for skilled labor outstrips supply, competition for trained technicians will drive hourly wages up and cut into profit margins or force contractors to raise prices.
This cautionary tale has a brighter side. There are positive steps that HVAC contractors can take now to mitigate the effects of the labor squeeze. Fortunately, the surge in business demand makes solutions more affordable.
HVAC Contractors Should Focus on Recruiting and Training New Technician Candidates
Market the trade
Promoting a rewarding career in HVAC services is not hard. Let's start by exploring the potential earnings. Depending on the location, HVAC technicians with less than three years of experience can earn an average salary of around $36,000. As they gain expertise over six years, their earnings soar to $50,000 to $90,000. And for those aiming for the top, service managers can make an impressive $100,000 annually.
Now, let's talk about the journey to becoming an HVAC technician. Just like electricians, they undergo a four to five-year apprenticeship. Once they successfully complete the apprenticeship and pass an exam, they are elevated to the esteemed position of journey-level technicians. Additionally, most states require technicians to obtain a license, which involves another exam. It's important to note that these requirements vary from state to state.
Make the Job More Attractive to Today’s Candidates in Your Recruiting
Update the Culture
Engaging the younger workforce demographic is of utmost importance. Generation Z individuals are actively seeking environmental consciousness, inclusiveness, and a well-defined career path. They desire opportunities to enhance their technical skills and possess a higher level of technological proficiency compared to previous generations. Furthermore, they are driven by the desire for meaningful jobs that not only benefit themselves but also make a positive impact on the world.
This is fantastic news for HVAC contractors as they are leading the way in implementing environmentally-friendly practices to combat global warming, with full support from the federal government. Initiatives such as installing heat pumps and adopting safer refrigerants not only have social value but also contribute to a greener future.
As for career paths, the structure is already established to climb from apprenticeships to journey-level technicians, but it needs to be clearly articulated. Another feature to emphasize is job security. With the robust growth figures for the HVAC business, it is a more secure occupation than those with flat growth.
Incorporating flexible scheduling into projects to accommodate time off is a valuable advantage for the modern workforce, who highly prioritize personal time and seek stability in their home lives.
Cultural features like inclusiveness and teamwork can be built over time if they don’t exist already. However, it takes time, so be organized and patient with managing change. The critical thing is to say what you will do and do what you say. Gen Zs do not abide by insincerity, and they have many other options in this job market.
To showcase your company and its offerings, consider offering internships. These short-term positions (perhaps for the Summer) allow prospective technicians to learn about life in your firm. Hands-on technical work is not included. Be sure that these programs are properly organized and managed by a manager who projects a positive image of your company.
You can contact high schools or trade schools to find motivated interns in your state. Again, be sure to leverage social media.
Contact HVAC trade associations to get your company on their radar. Publicize your efforts and clearly articulate the benefits of working for your company.
Finally, ensure that you track the impact of your hiring initiatives. Manage them as a priority. Place this responsibility in the hands of a veteran, respected leader who buys into the program and can work well with Gen Zs and anyone who is green-savvy and technology motivated to help mold the future of HVAC.
Apprenticeships are valuable keys to an HVAC technician career. Mentorships to teach and assist apprentices are a great selling point since apprentices can be confident they will get the support they need.
Ensure your compensation structure is competitive in your area, as it is crucial to your target audience. Then, if it makes sense based on the market, offer hiring bonuses.
Begin Combating the HVAC Talent Shortage
It is crucial for HVAC contractors to be mindful of the possible consequences of a talent shortage and proactively address it, beginning immediately. By offering comprehensive training programs, fostering an appealing work atmosphere, and establishing partnerships with local educational institutions and community organizations, contractors can effectively safeguard their businesses for the future.
In the meantime, you can help reduce your project costs by signing up for the Raiven Marketplace purchasing network.
Raiven Can Help
Raiven serves HVAC and electrical contractors with the lowest prices on equipment, parts, and maintenance supplies as well as a purchasing platform that makes buying fast and efficient. Key benefits include:
- Pre-negotiated discounts that are generating average client savings of 7-25%+ from industry leading suppliers like Carrier, Ferguson, Grainger, Graybar, Koch Filter, and more.
- Supply chain alerts for price and product availability changes on the supplies that matter to you most.
- Private marketplace houses all your preferred suppliers in one location for easy access to your discounts. No more bouncing around websites comparing prices.
- AI-powered purchasing tools that find the lowest prices even when employees shop outside your preferred suppliers.
Raiven is your one stop to save time and money. Visit Raiven to learn what we can do for you.