At the November, 2011 IHACI Convention in Pasadena, I had the oppportunity to talk with HVACR students, employers, and with technicians, and here are some of my observations and opinions about that experience.
First, students are being more serious about their education. Some of the students I talked with fit the “young and fresh’ profile…..late teens or early twenties, and not too far away from their high school experience, while the profile of others was the ‘mature’ (read it, older and changing careers) profile. In either case, when I say that they were being more serious about their education, I mean that they were willing to take a critical look at the school they were attending and ask for opinions about them. Whether they were attending a private school or a community college program, they wanted to know if their investment of time and money would pay off in the form of steady, well-paid employment in the HVACR industry.
Bravo, I say. Some students I’ve talked with in the past didn’t ask the critical questions about their training programs, and the fact that this crop of soon-to-be entry level technicians did, shows that we are cultivating a group of industry professionals who are serious about their career.
Second, there were the employers…..I had many conversations with contractors about their business, and about the technicians they employ. While a few of them were of that tired old belief that “you can’t get good help anymore” or “all we can hope for these days is somebody who can fog a mirror and not fail a drug test” when it comes to hiring technicians, many of them have also developed a healthy respect for employee development. In short, they have figured out that the only thing that is more expensive than training a technician and losing them, is not training training them and keeping them.
To be sure, the HVACR industry is rife with technicians who think about being self-employed, and there will always be situations in which an individual “does his time” with an employer and then opens his own shop. (Often, to discover that it isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, but that’s another story….) However, when an HVACR contractor does the right thing by the technicians they employ, and treat them as a industry colleague, they won’t experience the frustration of investing time and money in bringing a technician along to journeyman status, then find themselves competing with them for business. By treating them as a colleague, I mean treat them with the respect they deserve as a professional, and set up a compensation program for them that proves that they actually are in business for themselves as an employee, it’s just that they have chosen to work in an environment where their income is derived via providing service for one client, their employer.
And then there were the technicians…..some of them fit the profile of the technician I refer to above; of the opinion that their employer is making a ton of money off of them and not paying them enough, so they’re just putting in their time until they can open their own shop and wind up with a large chunk of cash in their pocket at the early afternoon end of a workday. And these particular technicians had another interesting approach to their work, which was ignoring ( or even bemoaning) the inevitible continuing process of the ‘greening’ of the HVACR industry.
The fact of the matter is, “Green” isn’t going to go away. The new and more stringent requirements for proper installation and servicing of HVACR equipment has only just begun, so every student, contractor and technician who is serious about our craft simply needs to accept that fact, adapt, and learn so they can benefit from the initiative.
Until next week….
Learn from yesterday….Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow.