California Dreamers: Young PeopleIn Search of a Life

An article by Heather MacDonald in City Journal — California's Demographic Revolution — is yet another wake-up call to industry in areas related to technician recruitment. The situation among California Hispanic youth, as described in great detail by Ms. MacDonald, has terrible implications for California, the trades, and the nation — unless more is done to improve career opportunities for Hispanic youth. And yes, this could be writ large for all young people who have no apparent career direction or life guidance.

(Note: this situation has nothing to do with bilingual education, so please don’t reply by saying they have to “SPEAK ENGLISH!!!!#%&*!”)

MacDonald’s main point: “If the upward mobility of the impending Hispanic majority doesn’t improve, the state’s economic future is in peril.”

She writes that the situation in California — lots of Hispanic youth with no career future — has been worsened (as we have seen in children of all races) by gang culture, teen pregnancy, single-parent homes, and the continued growth of the welfare state. Hispanic students in California speak English well. English-only education has expanded in the state. But all of these kids won’t be going to college, nor do all of them belong there, and they need a career destination.

The growth of the Hispanic population is making its way across the U.S. HVACR employers: here’s much of your future workforce.

Here’s where you come in . . .
MacDonald writes: “Only 55% of Hispanic male students graduated from California high schools in 2007, reports the California Dropout Research Project. Many of the dropouts would undoubtedly have welcomed the opportunity to learn a trade (bold emphasis mine). At the same time, California must stop decimating what remains of its manufacturing sector with business-killing regulations.”

The growth of the Hispanic population is making its way across the U.S. HVACR employers: here’s much of your future workforce. Ignore them, deny them a look at this industry, write them off, and you could be writing off much of your company’s future and the nation’s prosperity.

But, isn’t just writing them off bad enough?

For about two years, Contracting Business.com published a magazine for Hispanic technicians. We received complaints from those who resented our efforts to reach those technicians, who those detractors accused of not wanting to learn English. We were encouraging this, they said.

Truth was, at the time, that every Hispanic technician I ever spoke to by phone or met at a company could speak English fine. That magazine was simply a way to help those with not as firm a grasp on English get to know the industry better in a language we reasoned would be easier for them to read. The reaction of those irritated few represented a mindset that still exists in some, but must change. And besides, I don't think any quality HVACR employer in their right mind would hire a technician who couldn't speak any English whatsoever.

Residential housing construction has fallen. Manufacturing has slowed. Residential and commercial contractors are under intense pressure to survive under fierce competition and lowball pricing. When the smoke clears from all that, the technician shortage will remain. Yet, there are young people out there (of all races) who want to learn a trade. Find a way to reach those who want a career and give them one. Yes, it will probably cost you some money if you’re creative about it, and of course some time.

When I’m asked who'll foot the bill for technician outreach, what else should I say? The government? No thanks. Do it yourself. You’ll get better results.

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