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Where Have All the Technicians Gone?

Where Have All the Technicians Gone?

Michael Weil

It’s been over a year since I’ve gotten up on my technician shortage soapbox. In that time, there certainly has been a lot of ink spilled in the pages of this magazine and others in the industry on the topic. What brings it back into my forebrain is an interesting conversation I had a few days ago with a Michigan-based refrigeration contractor who called to ask me if I had any insight on where he could find service and installation technicans.

“Unfortunately,” I told him, “everyone wants the answer to that question and nobody has it.”

In case you haven’t been keeping up, the technical trades, of which the HVACR industry is just one part, have been embroiled in a technician shortage for years. The bad news is that the shortage is now coming to a head because the demand for such skills is skyrocketing while the labor pool continues to shrink.

The HVACR industry is in competiton with all the other field service trades for skilled technicians. And as in the Paula Cole song, Where Have All the Cowboys Gone, due to lack of attention, potential technicians have found other things to do.

And yet, there are contractors out there who seem to have bypassed this shortage. How? Some do it by creating work environments that people want to work in. Some find ways to pay technicians well for the work they do. Some have fantastic benefits packages that include 401K-type retirement plans. Others enable their employees to put skin in the game by creating employeeownership scenarios. Some mix and match these and other things to create a workplace that competitive companies are jealous of.

One such company is Cropp-Metcalf in Fairfax, VA. Owner Mitch Cropp will tell you that it took years to get to where they are today and that the job is never done.

The folks at Peaden Air Conditioning in Panama City, FL will tell you the same thing. That and the fact that they budget and market their company so that it dominates its market. Business Leader Robert Wilkos will back me up on this one. He adds education and training to the recipe and people just plain want to work there.

There aren’t any shortcuts and though I believe that, as an industry, we must do a better job of painting the HVACR world in more appealing colors, the bottom line is that you need to be active in making your business the very best place to work in your local market.

The contractor in Michigan was looking for one place to go to find technicians. I didn’t think of it at the time, but perhaps that single place is the front door to his business. If we all pay attention to the needs of our potential workforce and create an environment that meets those needs, the technician shortage could bypass us too.

This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a national promotional campaign, similar to the Mr. Goodwrench advertisements done by the auto industry, to attract young people to the industry. But that’s the topic of another editorial.

Get Your Technicians Involved
Many companies like Cropp-Metcalf and Peaden encourage their people to be active locally. It’s good for the soul and not so bad on the public relations front either. For those of you located in the Atlanta area, Comfortech Gives Back is a great opportunity to do just that. Check out the sidebar above and please join us in helping the elderly in Atlanta. Please sign up today and together, we can make a difference.

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