HVACR and plumbing contractors should play an important role in recruiting and training the next generation of technicians. If you are not actively involved with your local community or technical college, you should be! Over the next decade twice as many people may retire than there are people to replace them. Why would students choose a career in HVACR or plumbing over other occupations without your support and influence?

Contractors know what they want and expect in an entry-level technician, but what are they willing to give to get it? Did you know that community and technical colleges are required to have advisory committee meetings at least twice a year? Yes, they do and this is a perfect way for contractors to get involved in local education programs. These committees are made up of contractors, technicians, wholesalers, manufacturers and the like. Typical meetings provide HVACR and plumbing programs with expert counsel from current industry professionals in the HVACR and plumbing trades. Members work together to advise the program on many different levels, including new technologies, issues facing the program, jobs, recruitment, work ethics, tours, and on-the-job training programs to name a few. The rewards of involvement in an advisory capacity greatly outweigh the time invested, not to mention a noble contribution to the industry. 

Getting involved with a program allows the contractor to see specifically what is being taught and what is not being taught. Committee members provide valuable feedback to the program that can change the level of training the graduates receive. In other words, some training becomes customized to meet the specific needs of local businesses, thereby strengthening a contractor’s business. Another benefit of getting involved is the opportunity to see the equipment, tools and test instruments students use in training. And contractors can donate new or used equipment to the program to aid students in being trained on various brands and technologies of particular interest to them. Donations to the school may be tax deductable, so consult your tax advisor if you do this.

By being actively involved with local HVACR and plumbing programs, contractors can save time and money in hiring the right people. The school campus becomes the local recruiting office. Program advisory members and contractors have an opportunity to participate in a school’s on-the-job training program. Without a full-time employment commitment, a contractor is able to evaluate talent and temperament before graduation to see if a student is a good fit for his or her organization. As a member of the advisory board, a contractor may stop in regularly to see what projects students are working on, what is currently being taught, etc. During these visits they get to know the students, their work habits, their critical thinking skills, and a great deal about these potential employees. Contractors also have many other opportunities to address the class regarding a host of topics. One of the favorite topics to discuss is, “What is expected of me as a new employee.” It’s so important that this comes directly from a potential employing contractor.

Community and technical colleges provide the students with the fundamentals that they need for employment in the plumbing and HVACR industries. The schools do not know what part of the industry students will work for, nor do they know what product lines they will work with. That is why it is so important for contractors to be involved in local education programs. Plus, contractors are able to talk with students one-on-one about the trade, helping the student prepare for work in the real-world, at a contracting business. On the other side of the coin, the contractor that wants to be successful also needs to invest in continuing education and training for his team. This leads to other areas regarding how contractors should get involved in training, but that will be expanded upon in an upcoming issue.

Written by Thomas M. Tebbe, National Programs Director of HVAC Excellence, a not for profit organization that has been serving the HVACR industry since 1994. The organization’s goal is to improve competency through validation of the technical education process. By setting standards and verifying that they have been met, the organization inspires the industry to excel.