HVAC contractors are welcoming the vast and lucrative opportunities that have come with the current economic boom. Yet at the same time, a tightening labor market contributes new challenges to firms seeking skilled labor. Over the past four years the U.S. has seen a steady GDP expansion, a growing job market, a shrinking unemployment rate and, unfortunately, a diminishing pool of skilled trade labor. While many of the consequences of a strong and growing economy are positive, the flip side is that, like many other skilled trade based industries, HVAC business owners face the possibility of an upcoming labor shortage.
Greater Prosperity for the Skilled Trades
We are seeing unprecedented growth the likes of which has not been seen in years. The country is in a bull market with a Dow Jones at an all-time high. We have seen a 3% growth in the economy since the most recent downturn in 2013, rising real estate prices nationwide with real estate speculation and construction continuing to grow at a staggering rate. All of this prosperity creates an increasing demand for ongoing home construction and has helped invigorate construction services such as the HVAC industry to a point of all time high profits for many companies.
The problem with such growth and prosperity is that it inevitably creates a labor shortage for many businesses that depend on a healthy labor pool to hire employees from, especially those in skilled trades such as HVAC technicians. A big part of the workforce problem has been a negative perception about skilled trades. Young adults often see vocational jobs as a grueling line of work offering no career advancement or financial and job security. This along with the elimination of vocational training in high schools cut off much of the pipeline for blue-collar workers. An emphasis on college readiness and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields adversely affected trade courses like woodworking and welding and has added to the skilled trade workforce shortage.
Now, we are looking at a large percentage of firms struggling to fill important skilled trade positions and as the “Baby Boomer” generation continues to retire this struggle will only continue to become more problematic. Plain and simple, after decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, the U.S. now needs more tradespeople. For those business owners struggling to find qualified and skilled trade labor, there is no silver bullet. Governments are spending significant amounts of money in order to revive the reputation of vocational education and improve the delivery of it but many business owners are barely making due with the staff they have on hand and no options for hiring additional people in the near future.
Innovative Solutions to a Labor Shortage
How can HVAC contractors address these current hiring challenges? On the skilled labor side of things this is a very difficult question to answer, however, on the administrative side of things, business owners have the option of outsourcing. The current expansion of the job market has lessened the availability of minimum wage employees as well. Hiring staff to perform even such essential tasks as answering phone calls has recently become a challenge to business owners. A viable option for business owners and hiring managers alike is retaining an answering service to answer and process calls. Responsible for recruiting and training their own labor forces, answering services offer a highly affordable, convenient solution to the challenges faced on the administrative side of an HVAC business.