ACCA chairman tells Congress about the shortage of workers in the HVAC industry.

WASHINGTON - ACCA senior Vice Chairman Richard Dean told members of Congress that too many schools turn students away from vocational education in testimony April 21.

In addition to his work with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Dean is vice president of Environmental Systems Associates in Columbia, Md. He spoke before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Workforce, Empowerment and Government Programs.

Dean was invited to talk to the subcommittee on the issue of how the federal government can help small businesses revitalize the economy. He told the committee that the biggest crisis in the HVAC industry is the lack of qualified technicians.

"One important reason for this labor shortage is the tendency... in the public school systems to steer high school students away from vocational education and towards four-year colleges," said Dean.

He also emphasized that HVAC technicians must still complete three years of extensive classroom instruction and on-the-job training to be classified as journeymen. He proposed two solutions: encourage the departments of Education and Labor to educate guidance counselors on the benefits of HVAC careers, and develop programs to train displaced manufacturing workers. The closing of factories results in tremendous job loses, he pointed out, and in most cases, these jobs are lost forever because the manufacturing facility is moved out of the United States.

"These skilled workers are just the type of workers our industry... needs," he said. "And our industry would be very attractive to (them) because our jobs cannot be moved off shore."

Dean said it is time to revisit such legislation as the Skilled Workforce Enhancement Act, which would create tax credits for small businesses that hire and train technicians.