Contracting Business/Kelly Faloon
Contracting Business/Kelly Faloon
Endeavor Business Media
Contracting Business/Kelly FAloon
Kelly L. Falloon
Contracting Business/Kelly Faloon
Contracting Business/Kelly Faloon
Jose De La Portilla, senior manager of education and training, Rheem Mfg

2024 AHR Expo: Addressing the Workforce Development, Recruitment and Retention Gap

Jan. 24, 2024
The biggest problem is that many people don't understand what careers the HVACR industry offers

How do we attract talent to the HVACR industry? How do we keep those workers? How do we help them move forward in their careers? These were the questions tackled at the Jan. 24 panel discussion at the 2024 AHR Expo in Chicago.

Panelists were: Alison Neuman, North American workforce development program manager at Johnson Controls; Bryan Feilen, senior corporate account manager, Lincoln Tech; Scott Shaw, president and CEO of Lincoln Tech; Jose De La Portilla, senior manager of education and training, Rheem Mfg.; Byran Orr, founder/CEO of HVAC School and Kalos Services; and moderator Dominick Guarino, president and CEO of the National Comfort Institute.

The discussion started with an overview of a joint project between Johnson Controls and Lincoln Tech: JCI Academy, launched in early 2023. The program provides six weeks of intensive training toward full-time employment, as well as housing near the Lincoln Tech campus in Columbia, Md. It was created to provide a pathway to employment at Johnson Controls locations throughout the United States; students transition to JCI positions around the country, with relocation assistance provided.

"We've had 110 graduates so far," Neuman said.

Feilen added: "The program instills confidence, and we have a 95% retention rate."

The biggest problem, according to De La Portilla, is that people don't know about the industry. "We don't let enough people know about the industry and the careers that it offers," he said.

Shaw noted that schools are "desperate" for help, so partnering with a local school would get your company – and what you do – in front of young people.

Company culture is a big part of why techs may choose your company – and why they may eventually leave. Panelists agreed that culture needs to be supportive of workers, especially when trying to attract/keep Gen Z workers.

About the Author

Kelly L. Faloon | Freelance Writer/Editor

Kelly L. Faloon is a contributing editor and writer to Contracting Business magazine, Contractor and HPAC Engineering. The former editor of Plumbing & Mechanical magazine, Faloon has more than 20 years experience in the plumbing and heating industry. She started a freelance writing and editing business in 2017, where she has a varied clientele.

Faloon spent 3 1/2 years at Supply House Times before joining the Plumbing & Mechanical staff in 2001. Previously, she spent nearly 10 years at CCH/Wolters Kluwer, a publishing firm specializing in business and tax law, where she wore many hats — proofreader, writer/editor for a daily tax publication, and Internal Revenue Code editor.

A native of Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula, Faloon is a journalism graduate of Michigan State University. You can reach her at [email protected].