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Five Prestigious Reasons to Become an HVACR Apprentice

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P. – Aftermarket Distribution, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

As National Apprenticeship Week (March 4–8, 2019) once again approaches, the critical shortage of qualified HVACR technicians within the U.S. continues with an estimated industry shortfall of 118,000 technicians by the year 2022. Recruiting apprentice HVACR techs remains as challenging as ever, because students with an aptitude for technical trades are not being encouraged to pursue vocational or technical training. Students need to be convinced that an HVACR career path is a viable alternative to a four-year college degree, offering them a chance to work on new and emerging technologies in meaningful careers that contribute to society.

What’s stopping them? One is the perception among American high school students that a college degree is more valuable and prestigious than an apprenticeship and a fast track to a career. The other is that we collectively as an industry are not adequately presenting them options. Here are five great reasons for a high school student to consider becoming an HVACR apprentice.

  1. College is more popular — and more expensive — than ever.

At least two-thirds of the high school class of 2020 intend to go to college; this represents the highest rate of secondary education attendance in U.S. history. They and their parents know that college is getting more expensive, while financial aid is shrinking. The average student graduates with an average of $40,000 in student loan debt just as they’re about to begin looking for an entry-level job. What isn’t as well-known is that about half of all college students drop out without earning a degree — and with no real job skills. Yet schools, guidance counselors and peers continue to push students straight to college.

  1. There is an alternative: A fast start — with no debt.

When many “traditional” students are just starting their sophomore year in college, some of their high school friends will be beginning their careers as HVACR apprentices with average entry-level salaries ranging from $47,000–$60,000 a year, depending on skill set. It’s a matter of supply and demand, and being an HVACR tech is a vocation in extremely high demand. It’s time high school guidance counselors had information about alternative apprenticeships on hand.

  1. An apprenticeship is a wise path for students who can use their heads — and their hands.

A bright student with some high school courses in math and/or physics can learn to read a blueprint and earn an HVACR apprentice certificate at a community college in six months to a year, at little or no cost and with no student debt. Others can even start straight out of high school, getting paid while earning their certificate on the job. In an industry that needs 118,000 new HVACR apprentice technicians, their certificates mean they are almost certain to get job offers from almost any company to which they apply. As an apprentice, their future career tracks are limited only by their ambition and drive (or lack thereof).

  1. An apprenticeship is a top-notch education.

An HVACR tech certificate may not sound as glamorous as a college degree. But four years of on-the-job training in a technical field are easily the equivalent of a four-year academic degree. HVACR techs are responsible for maintaining healthy environments at major medical centers. They work in the aerospace industry and in high-tech corporations. HVACR techs know how to maintain and repair 12-ton coolers, heat pumps, furnaces, ultralow-temperature freezers and refrigerators; they can manage the electronic systems that connect them; and they can run the software and internet programs that monitor and control them. HVACR techs work with advanced technologies, doing essential work that significantly affects people’s lives.

  1. They’re wanted.

The HVACR industry is working with educators, unions and contractor organizations to make it even easier to earn apprentice certification, with more online courses, night classes and technically advanced curriculums to create valuable on-the-job training. Even the federal government has stepped in, with the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act providing funds for students who are looking for more career-oriented education after high school.

 

Four Keys to Addressing the Technician Shortage

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P., Communications & Channel Marketing, Refrigeration

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes the Contractor Connection column in our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled Answering the Call.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

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It’s estimated that 115,000 HVACR technicians will be needed by 2022 to fill industry jobs. At our latest E360 Forum in Tucson, Ariz., Emerson hosted a half-day symposium entitled “Industry Challenge: Addressing the Technician Shortage.” The meeting assembled nearly 50 contractors, wholesalers, and Emerson leadership team members to take the first steps toward forming a consensus on how to solve this critical technician shortage. Meeting participants were divided into four group ideation sessions that focused on the key aspects of the challenge.

A common theme emerged as each group then presented its insights: the importance of appealing to the current field of job market entrants. Specifically, they identified career attributes that the millennial generation values most, including:

  • The desire to have a meaningful career that contributes to the betterment of society
  • The preference for working with modern technology
  • The importance of selecting a career path that has both long-term security and growth potential

With these drivers in mind, the groups presented four keys for addressing this shortage:

  1. Awareness — because vocational occupations are often overlooked in today’s culture, students with an aptitude for technical trades are not encouraged to pursue vocational or technical training. To overcome this trend, students and faculty need to be convinced that this career path is a viable alternative to a four-year college degree.
  2. Recruitment — engaging millennials requires appealing to their unique sensibilities, including their preference for working with new and emerging technologies, or careers that have a meaningful societal contribution. Studying to become an HVACR technician fulfills these needs while ultimately providing competitive compensation, job security, career growth and low competition.
  3. Training — to ease the process of earning a certification, schools should make training classes more convenient (via online or evening classes) and more affordable. As important, the curriculum should be kept current to cover the latest technologies, refrigerants, and equipment.
  4. Retention — attracting and retaining students requires making them aware of the bigger purpose and meaning the job provides. It also means helping them to achieve proper work-life balance and charting a path for true career progression.

It’s important to remember that turning the tide on the technician shortage will not happen overnight. In the meantime, we need stakeholder participation and engagement to maintain awareness of the issue and look for solutions in our day-to-day activities. To contribute to this important effort, please email the Emerson team at e360.climate@emerson.com.

Latest E360 Forum Videos Available: Covering Emerging Trends

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P., Communications & Channel Marketing, Refrigeration

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

WATCH session videos from the March E360 Forum in Raleigh, N.C.

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Emerson recently held its seventh E360 Forum. Held in Raleigh, N.C., it brought together OEMs, wholesalers, contractors, consultants and end users to continue the dialogue about the key issues facing the commercial refrigeration channel today. The day-long event featured multiple presentations by subject matter experts, and provided ample opportunities for attendees to share their biggest challenges and gain new insights.

True to the intent of the E360 program from its onset, this Forum continued a larger industry dialogue by seeking the perspectives of each industry sector. The following sessions are available via video:

Addressing the Challenges Facing the Refrigeration Industry — Don Newlon, vice president of refrigeration — marketing, kicked off the event with a summary of the regulatory activity that’s currently shaping the industry, including near-term deadlines and far-reaching impacts.

Making Sense of the Latest Rulemaking on Acceptable Refrigerants — Moderated by Dr. Rajan Rajendran, vice president of system innovation center and sustainability, this panel discussion featured representatives from leading chemical manufacturers who discussed the EPA regulations and new refrigerants being developed.

Cold Chain Evolution — Dean Landeche, vice president of marketing for retail solutions, discussed how food chain transparency and safety trends are requiring retailers to implement traceability measures from “farm to fork.”

Utilizing Digital Retrofits to Achieve Capacity Modulation Emerson’s Tim Uderman and Rob Southwood presented the benefits of capacity modulation — such as temperature precision and reduced compressor cycling — and demonstrated how digital compressors are being used to take advantage of these benefits in fixed capacity refrigeration racks.

CO2 Booster Systems From a Service Mechanic’s Perspective — Servicing a CO2 system requires technicians to become familiar with the refrigerant’s unique operating properties. Andre Patenaude, director of CO2 business development, discussed key servicing considerations and emerging CO2 architectures.

Achieving DOE Compliance in Commercial Refrigeration Equipment DOE energy mandates on walk-in coolers and freezers, reach-in systems and ice machines will impact the foodservice segment for years to come. Brian Buynacek, senior refrigeration engineer and marketing consultant, discussed what’s needed to achieve compliance in each equipment class.

New Refrigerants Designation and Safety Classifications While new A2L (mildly flammable) refrigerants bring the promise of “ultra-low” GWP levels, they also have unique performance characteristics and safety considerations. Stefanie Kopchick, North America marketing manager of refrigerants for the Chemours Company and Greg Relue, Emerson’s manager of regulatory compliance/product safety/product safety officer, compared class 2L refrigerants to other familiar gases and discussed the industry’s latest testing efforts to better understand how to safely use these products.

WATCH session videos from the March E360 Forum in Raleigh, N.C.

Bridging the Refrigeration Gap

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P., Communications & Channel Marketing, Refrigeration

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Industry needs to address the shortage of commercial refrigeration technicians

Bridging Ref. Gap

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.

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