Bridging the Refrigeration Gap
|Bob Labbett | V.P., Communications & Channel Marketing, Refrigeration
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions
Industry needs to address the shortage of commercial refrigeration technicians
For more than a decade, the lack of qualified technicians in HVACR has been a growing problem in the U.S.
Recent industry statistics help reveal the extent of the technician shortage. An ACHR News article estimated that more than 27,000 skilled technicians are projected to retire annually. Meanwhile, according to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 15,000 trained HVACR technicians are entering the workforce annually, and the industry is expected to grow 21 percent through 2022.
In annual contractor roundtables hosted by Emerson Climate Technologies, the lack of qualified refrigeration technicians is consistently cited as the number one challenge contracting business owners face. Although different HVAC initiatives have attempted to address the issue through the years, the situation for refrigeration has not improved. On the positive side, we’re beginning to better understand the roots of the problem and where to focus our efforts.
The refrigeration gap may be defined as follows: a shortage of qualified refrigeration technicians available to service increasingly diverse and complex refrigeration systems and applications, compounded by limited access to training programs offered throughout the nation’s career vocational schools and technical colleges. Adding to this challenge is an industry dealing with continually evolving regulations and emerging technologies.
While most of the nation’s technical schools offer accreditation in the AC trade — complete with hands-on training with the industry’s most commonly used equipment — very few of these schools are equipped to support the breadth of equipment and system architectures required to educate refrigeration technicians. Refrigeration technicians must be equipped to deal with a much broader range of refrigerants and application temperatures, as well as myriad system architectures.
The technician shortage was the focus of a spirited panel discussion at our most recent E360 Forum in Atlanta. Panelist Dan Steffen, vice president of AAA Refrigeration, talked about the misperception surrounding what is essentially an extremely viable career opportunity.
“At trade shows, I talk with many peers who don’t want their kids going into this profession,” Steffen said. “The truth is this is a great industry for smart people, and until they find another way to preserve food, this is a recession-proof industry. It’s an opportunity not just for a job, but for a career. We need to change perceptions from within.”
While the panel discussion didn’t produce a solution to the growing problem, the panelists all agreed that it will take the concerted effort of the entire HVACR industry to turn the tide.
To be successful, we will need to leverage the collective strength of the entire industry and develop strategies to attract, recruit and retain new technicians to the HVACR industry.
Starting points for executing on this strategy could include:
- Bringing together industry stakeholders to holistically evaluate and address the problem, and determine a plan of action
- Expanding certification opportunities geared specifically toward commercial refrigeration
- Leverage new media to recruit the next generation of entrants into the refrigeration business
- Demonstrate a clear path for career advancement and longevity
Emerson Climate Technologies is committed to becoming a champion of this effort. Stay tuned for more information in subsequent E360 events and publications.
This blog is a summary of the article Bridging the Refrigeration Gap from our recent edition of E360 Outlook. Click here to read the article in its entirety.