Lower prices in the oil and gas industry have led to job losses as the sector has contracted recently, and that was even before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked additional havoc on the national and world economies.
The COVID-19 crisis is accelerating what was already shaping up to be one of the oil industry’s most challenging years. More than a dozen oil companies have declared bankruptcy so far in the United States alone, and widespread industry layoffs are expected to continue.
Oil field closures
But displaced oil industry employees may provide a benefit to the HVAC industry, which faces struggles to attract sufficient skilled labor to meet customer needs. Might those displaced workers be great candidates for the HVAC industry? Definitely, says Brett Hobson, owner of Perfect Technician Academy, an HVAC technician school in Weatherford, Texas, near Dallas. “Many similarities exist between the oil and HVAC industries,” says Hobson.
“That’s largely why [our school] has garnered a variety of new students from oil-heavy states around the U.S. in recent months.” Perfect Technician Academy has paid attention to the turmoil unfolding in the oil industry and is taking steps to mitigate it. Previously, the HVAC trade school has catered to veterans and active-duty military, helping them to transition to civilian life. Lately, the school has expanded the focus to include the men, women and families displaced by oil field closures in and around Texas.
Providing stability during pandemic
Having your livelihood pulled out from under you and beginning a new career path is an incredibly stressful situation"
Perfect Technician Academy offers courses in HVAC Repair Service Technician, Residential Install Technician, Maintenance Service Technician, and installer Assistant Technician. “When people learn about the nature of the HVAC industry, they typically are left wishing they had come to the school sooner,” says Dr. Thomas Moorman, Provost and School Director. “Having your livelihood pulled out from under you and beginning a new career path is an incredibly stressful situation to be in.”
Perfect Technician Academy seeks to provide stability to those in need during the pandemic, emphasizing that opportunity exists in the HVAC market for those willing to pursue it. An advantage of an HVAC job over the life of oil company employees is the ability for an employee to sleep in their bed at home, rather than being off in an oil patch for three or six weeks at a time, Hobson says.
Heath Averitt was laid off after spending 23 years in the oil field. “Oil hit zero dollars a barrel,” he told KOKH-TV Fox25 News in Oklahoma City. “What am I going to do to make it? How am I going to get out to make some money to pay bills the fastest?” With two brothers-in-law working in HVAC in South Texas, Averitt approached Perfect Technician Academy to explore the possibilities of a career change.
“We can get them back in the workforce in an accelerated period, in a career that probably has a lot more stability,” says Hobson. Employment of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians and installers was projected to grow 21% from 2012 to 2022 based on U.S. Labor statistics. The growing number of sophisticated climate-control systems is expected to increase demand for qualified HVAC technicians, according to Perfect Technician Academy.