Bringing the Need for Qualified Technicians Into Focus on National STEM Day
|Ben Picker | Product Manager – Copeland Condensing Units
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions
National STEM Day is Nov. 8. From Emerson’s perspective, it’s a day to recognize the importance of science, technology, engineering and math — not only in our education curriculum, but also in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) industries.
With the commercial refrigeration industry evolving to utilize more sophisticated technologies, technician jobs are becoming more technological than mechanical — and becoming viable options for those pursuing a STEM career path. A new workforce recruitment initiative by the Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) is addressing the technician shortage head-on via a new full-length documentary.
HVACR supply chain feeling the impacts
The impacts of the service technician shortage are being felt throughout the HVACR supply chain. While the vast majority of HVACR contracting business owners today are actively looking for technicians, this pain has far-reaching consequences — from wholesaler distributors to end users, owners and operators. Whether you’re operating a supermarket, c-store, restaurant or virtually any facility that has HVACR needs, the lack of qualified technicians is making it increasingly difficult to find reliable sources for new installations, routine servicing or emergency repairs.
And while industry stakeholders have been sounding the alarms for nearly a decade, it’s a problem that’s not going away. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVACR mechanic and installer jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 15 percent nationwide through 2026.
A perfect storm of market trends, technological advancements and demographic changes are compounding the issue. This is especially true in refrigeration, where shifting store formats and environmental regulations have led to a proliferation of system types. These systems are introducing connected technologies, electronics and alternative refrigerants, many of which represent completely new servicing procedures. As the industry struggles to attract a new generation of recruits, many of our current service technicians are scrambling to keep pace with these system changes, or are planning for retirement.
HARDI releases “Hot Commodity”
The goal of HARDI’s new workforce recruitment initiative is to spread awareness of the HVACR wholesale distribution industry to the younger generation and encourage these individuals to pursue an HVACR career path. To spearhead this effort, HARDI is releasing a documentary that exemplifies their mission and explores the many HVACR-related career opportunities.
While the full-length film has yet to be released, HARDI is currently promoting a short trailer of the documentary. As one of the professionals featured in the film states, now’s the time “for the younger generation to carry the ball” forward.
The themes presented in the documentary include:
- Alternative to traditional college — Many high school students are encouraged to attend college, even if it’s not necessarily the best fit. Vocational and technical schools offer an alternative to traditional college, while allowing attendees to begin earning a living as they learn.
- Financial viability — With a median annual salary of $47,080, HVACR technician profession earnings are significantly higher than other occupations, even though the job doesn’t require a four-year degree. As one of the contractors in the film explained, it’s possible for service technicians with 10 years of experience to earn as much $100K per year. Increased demand for these jobs is driving salaries upward.
- Variety of career paths — Whether you’re coming out of high school, or college, or seeking a career change, there are multiple opportunities and positions to explore. For example, the film mentions a microbiologist who sought a career change offering the potential to achieve ideal indoor air quality.
- Changing perceptions — The perception of working in a dirty, dark and dangerous environment is changing. The next generation of HVACR technicians will work with rapidly changing, emerging technologies, electronics, computers and more.
- Evergreen market — Achieving ideal air quality and reliable refrigeration in a dynamic market is an evergreen opportunity. As a result, HVACR professions are among the most sustainable across all occupations.
As a HARDI supporter and long-time champion of this cause, Emerson will continue to do its part to raise awareness of the technician shortage facing our industry. Our Educational Services group frequently partners with vocational and technical schools to donate equipment, offer training and career advice, and even judge HVACR-related competitions. Look for the full HARDI documentary to be released later this year.