The Future of the HVAC Workforce

Looking ahead to the rest of this year and beyond, what does the future hold for the HVAC workforce?

While nobody has a crystal ball to see what’s coming with time’s twists and turns, we have a pretty good idea how the HVAC industry is faring.

The industry as a whole may be in for a mixed bag this year after record growth over the past few years, with rising inflation and higher equipment and installation costs being the biggest culprits. ACHR News reports consumers may start repairing rather than replacing their existing systems. And the 40% cut in HFC production won’t help matters, either, and could lead to shortages of refrigerants and price hikes because of it.

But, the biggest challenge on everyone’s minds going forward is the shortage of skilled labor. It’s not just hitting the HVAC industry. Many, if not most, industries are going to feel this crunch. That’s because Baby Boomers are exiting the workforce in droves.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There is very good news on the horizon for the future of HVAC workers. Let’s look deeper into this issue of concern for all of us.

The Silver Tsunami

The impact of Boomer retirement can’t be overstated. Baby Boomers make up nearly a third of the entire U.S. workforce. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that 4.4 million people will turn 65 (retirement age) every year from now through 2027. During the period from 2022 to 2030, 75 million Americans are expected to retire.

Called the Silver Tsunami or the Great Retirement, it is the largest surge of retirement age Americans in history. 

At Goodin Company, we’ve had our share of retirements over the past few years. Replacing these valued employees is never easy. And we know it’s not easy for you, either.


Loss of institutional knowledge

When your most experienced, seasoned people walk out of the door for the last time, they take with them the hard-earned know-how they learned on the job, out in the field every day. The troubleshooting tricks, the ins and outs of certain systems, the feel of repairs. Dealing with customers. The issues that seem to crop up over and over. You can’t teach that in a classroom.

But that’s not the whole picture. Not only are your most experienced people leaving, there are not enough skilled workers in the pipeline to replace them.


Talent shortage

This lack of skilled workers is a real problem for HVAC. According to LinkedIn, the number of HVAC technicians declined by more than 50% over the past decade. As LinkedIn reports, that’s putting pressure on contractors who are trying to find good people to get the job done.


The good news

Despite the fact that there’s a shortage in the pipeline, the job outlook for HVAC techs is promising. In fact, it’s one of the fastest-growing fields out there. New construction everywhere you look, apartment buildings popping up one after the other – all of it means an increase in HVAC jobs.

Another factor driving job growth has to do with the “tech” in technician. New technologies are creating more complex HVAC systems, “smart” units that do everything but serve you a bowl of ice cream on a hot day, whole home integration. It requires people with advanced skills to install, maintain and repair these new systems.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for skilled HVAC technicians is expected to grow by 6% between now and 2032, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

That, along with the Silver Tsunami, translates to almost 40,000 additional jobs each year for HVAC technicians.

With a national average starting pay upwards of $25 per hour, those are good jobs with solid futures.

What you can do to close that gap

It feels like the perfect storm. An industry poised for growth, with 40,000 new jobs created each year. Experienced pros retiring in record numbers. Not enough people in the pipeline to fill those jobs.

How can you make sure you have the people you need to get the job done? Here are a few suggestions.

Focus on retention. If you can keep your good people on the job (excluding retirees) that’s half the battle. 

Focus on training. Part of retaining good people is investing in their futures. With all of this new technology coming down the pike, make sure your employees are well trained, attend refresher courses, and keep up on new advancements. Not only will this give you a better-trained workforce, it will tell your employees that you care about helping them enhance their skills.

At Goodin Company, we’re here to help with that. We hold training sessions every month dealing with new products, upgrades and more. Check out our Events page for ongoing training information.

Create mentorships. Before your best people retire, pair them with younger workers so these newbies can learn from the best. Also, consider doing an interview or podcast-style video series – this doesn’t have to be fancy, just shoot it on your smartphone -- talking with your more experienced workers about their best tips, tricks and troubleshooting. This will help preserve your company’s institutional knowledge.

Work with trade schools. Consider creating partnerships with local trade schools that can help funnel graduates your way. One idea is to develop an internship program where students can shadow your experienced people to learn the job.

Bottom line, the future looks bright for HVAC workers. With the right skills and training, the sky’s the limit.

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