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The Power of the Employee

Many owners and managers are still asking the age-old question, “Where can I find good HVAC employees?” I hear it frequently. Owners and managers today go to great lengths to attract employees, using advertisements in several types of media, including radio, newspapers and trade magazines. I recently spotted a 4-foot x 6-foot help wanted ad for A/C technicians posted on the inside of a glass pane of a bus stop. I, like many of you, have also heard of companies that are offering terrific bonuses, paid sick leave, paid vacation, schooling and even a 401K plan.

Yet these enticements are not guaranteed to draw someone who will eventually become a reliable, professional technician. In some cases a problem seems to be the length of time it takes in the classroom to learn the trade, and the on-the-job training requirements. I recently spoke with a tech school candidate and she told me that the cost of a two-year HVAC program was $40,000 plus books, with room and board added. Then comes the OTJT required before a test can be taken to qualify for a basic license. I know in the past Connecticut, for example, required a candidate, before beginning work in the field, to register with the state and keep track of their own working hours until their state booklet showed an accumulated specific amount of hours.

The other problem is that there are too many master technicians retiring and their replacements are not coming into the trade fast enough–although it pleases me to know of a company who has retained a “Charlie” who is in his 70s, works limited hours doing equipment cleanings, and loves the company he works for.

But he seems a rare exception. Times have changed a great deal and company expectations have changed a great deal too. Many years ago a full-service oil company would hire a person who could troubleshoot, install and service a furnace or boiler. However diversification has become a must and many of these same oil companies have ventured into LP equipment sales, installation and service, A/C sales installation and service, plumbing sales installation and service–and let’s not leave out electrical sales, installations and service. Some have even ventured into selling and repairing appliances.

So, now when it comes to diversifying into the above-mentioned different markets, the demand for more qualifications and licenses will become inevitable. It’s also hard for me to think that finding someone with all of the qualifications and licenses is anything less than, as the saying goes, like finding a needle in a haystack. If you happen to find such an individual or provide the training for your existing employees, beware: you could at some point be faced with “The Power of An Employee.”

I have said in the past that owners and managers must ban together in each of their states and lobby for amendments that would make it possible for candidates to get their licenses in a shorter time frame.

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