The HVAC construction industry faces unique challenges. Despite the sluggish economy, this industry desperately needs skilled workers.

Part of the problem is we fall short in encouraging students down the rewarding career path of an HVAC market technician. We all know there’s a shortage of skilled technicians who can install, repair and service the next generation of green HVAC units — energy-efficient heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment that will help homes and commercial buildings use less energy and provide improved indoor comfort.

During one of the early Republican debates last fall, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said that this country needs to “make higher education faster and easier to access, especially vocational training. For the life of me I don’t know why we stigmatize vocational education.”

After the debate, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America sent a letter to all the candidates running for president, Republicans and Democrats, urging them to make career education an important platform of the campaign.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are currently 267,600 HVAC construction mechanics and installers in the U.S. A new study estimates 115,000 new HVAC market workers must be trained by 2022 to meet the anticipated demand. HVAC sales jobs will remain strong opportunities for workers with appropriate skills, training, certifications or work experience. In 2014, 70 percent of HVAC market job postings were for middle-skill occupations that offered advertised average salaries of $49,259 that can go higher with signing bonuses and opportunities for promotion. 

Stable income

Industry jobs are stable, with year-round employment that cannot be moved offshore and provide strong living-wage salaries. And HVAC jobs are in demand across all states. Workers with HVAC construction skills have the opportunity to move and find work in the industry.

Unfortunately, a disconnect between education and opportunity in the HVAC market remains, and it’s a missed opportunity for workers and the economy. In 2015, the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation commissioned three studies to explore workforce supply and demand in the United States and Canada. The goal was to understand the opportunities available for industry workers and address the unique issues constraining the pipeline of talent for HVAC sales roles.

ACCA is working to address training by launching Qtech, a new series of affordable online certificate programs for technicians. Through Qtech, HVAC construction contractors can offer their employees on-demand training in installation, maintenance and home performance. Technicians who successfully complete Qtech programs will be awarded certificate designations allowing them to differentiate themselves in the field. In addition, the courses are approved for continuing-education credits hours from a wide variety of organizations.

The first Qtech certificate program, “Technician Field Practices for Quality Installation,” consists of over six hours of video training in the ACCA’s 2015 HVAC Quality Installation Specification standard. It is broken into convenient five- to 15-minute segments that technicians can work into their busy schedules.

The video series provides a broad perspective on available HVAC market measurement tools and includes instructions on measuring methods cited in the QI standard. Numerous examples and illustrations address various types of testing and diagnostic tools, procedures and documentation requirements.

Upon passing this program’s final exam, students will receive a certificate and are eligible for education credits from organizations such as the Building Performance Institute, North American Technician Excellence, the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society and HVAC Excellence.

Contractors and their technicians can sign up for these two new programs at www.acca.org/qtech.  For assistance, contact training@acca.org or (888) 290-2220. For questions about Qtech course material, contact Donald Prather at donald.prather@acca.org.