Teenage students at Greenfield-Central High School in Indiana are learning about the installation, operation and maintenance of air-handling systems. The career and technical education class is giving them a head start toward a decent-paying career in HVAC, including the opportunity to earn multiple certifications.
“You’ll get a job if someone else doesn’t have the certifications you do, so [there are] more job opportunities,” one student told the Greenfield Daily Reporter.
Addressing the industry's labor shortage
The program highlights an opportunity to address the HVAC industry’s labor shortage by nurturing a next-generation workforce starting at an early age – in high school.
Vocational programs teach HVAC as well as masonry, carpentry, electrical and plumbing
Marathon High School in Wisconsin is another example; their vocational programs teach HVAC as well as masonry, carpentry, electrical and plumbing. “This course only exists because local contractors have been contacting me about the need to meet the demands of society,” John Vanderwyst, Tech Education Teacher at Marathon High School, told WZAW Fox7.
“What we find is that a lot of these young adults don’t even realize that our profession exists,” says Jon Hirsch, Director of Business Development at Auer Steel in Milwaukee. “Unfortunately, there are more jobs than there are people to fill them,” he told WZAW Fox7. Statistical projections bear out the observation nationwide: Training and education programs will graduate only a fraction of the 115,000 additional HVAC workers needed by the year 2022.
Career or College?
In an age when college debt can ruin a graduate’s finances even as he or she struggles to find employment, career path alternatives may seem more appealing. College is clearly not for everyone: More than half of all Americans who enroll in college become dropouts. College can also be cost-prohibitive, with a private four-year degree costing approximately $48,000 a year.
It’s a great time to remind students and young adults about the value of a career in HVAC, where the median pay for mechanics and installers in 2018 was $47,610 per year. There is also a higher-than-average outlook for job growth in the industry – 13% growth over the next decade, from 367,900 employees to 414,200.
HVAC Career opportunities
The median pay for mechanics and installers in 2018 was $47,610 per year
The reality is that graduates of technical school programs can earn more and have better career opportunities. The highest degree level needed for HVAC work is an associate (2-year) course of study, which is much less expensive than a bachelor’s degree program.
According to a Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study, HVAC techs with a high school diploma (or less) stand to earn $1.6 million in their lifetime. Having some college and/or an associate degree only raises that outlook by $200,000 to $1.8 million. More than half of employees in the HVAC field (51.1%) have a high school diploma or less.
As Baby Boomers retire from the workforce, there will be a gaping hole of experience and knowledge to fill. Dan Canter is doing his part. Since retiring from the HVAC industry, he has been serving as the instructor for the course at Greenfield-Center High School.