With the possibility of more than 138,000 HVAC construction jobs going unfilled by 2022, the industry faces a “workforce time bomb,” according to PHCC members who participated in a recent roundtable in Washington, D.C.

A panel of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors members from across the country shared told lawmakers what they’ve done to help close the looming gap.

John Bain, R.T. Moore Co.’s vice president of internal operations and talent, and Brenda Dant, the PHCC of Indiana’s executive director, described how their chapter developed a website that aims for the 18- to 24-year-old market and promotes the “modern profession of plumbing.” According to Dant, the website matched 230 prospective employees to employers over a three-month period.

Gordy Noe, president of Knoxville, Tennessee-based Pioneer Heating and Air, talked about the “ride and decide” program, which allows high school juniors and seniors in his area to try the HVAC construction industry to see if it is a good fit. In its second year, the program has more than 50 students signed up to experience what the jobs entail — while getting paid for their time.

Carl Pinto, director of marketing for water heating manufacturer Bradford White said the worker shortage will affect much more than plumbers and HVAC technicians.

“This workforce challenge extends well beyond PHC contractors,” he said. “There is a ripple effect on the industry, including the manufacturers and wholesalers who support PHC.”

During the conclusion of the roundtable, Tom Applegate, executive director of the Ohio Association of Career-Technical Superintendent and a member of the PHCC’s educational foundation, encouraged those in the industry to continue their employee recruitment efforts and consider new strategies.  

“The successful programs implemented by the contractors and associations here today can be replicated in other local areas,” he said.