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5 Truths About the HVAC Profession Today

Instructor and students at whiteboard

Johnson Controls ... has awarded two $95,000 grants to the MC Foundation during the past two years, which are benefitting MC’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) program.

Skilled-worker shortages continue to challenge hiring managers in companies like Johnson Controls. During the pandemic, many experienced workers opted to retire, increasing an existing deficit of workers—and new talent has not developed quickly enough to fill the gaps. “Not enough people are learning about their opportunities in HVAC,” says David Robinson, Johnson Controls general manager of fire, HVAC, and security. “Many people just have misconceptions about what it’s like to work in this field today.”

1. HVAC Today Is Technical

“People still think these [HVAC] jobs are about getting dirty and working long days for little pay,” Robinson says. “In fact, the opposite is true. These jobs are technical and data-driven—you need a laptop, computer or handheld device. You have to understand and analyze complex systems and problem-solve. You also need post-secondary training and significant training on the job. Technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and connected sensors all offer new educational opportunities for today’s labor force.”

2. Soft Skills Count: Problem Solving and Communication

“We have to make sure our employees understand the customer experience is extremely important. We need technicians to be engaging and able to explain highly technical HVAC operations to customers in a way they understand and walk them through next steps, if needed.”

3. HVAC Industry and the Environment

“The HVAC industry affects sustainability and carbon neutrality; air-quality systems and energy use go hand in hand. Right now, it’s all about sustainability, carbon neutrality and impacting the environment,” Robinson says. “We want people to know they can go into HVAC and directly impact energy use by ensuring healthy buildings. The next generation of HVAC experts must be equipped with the digital and technical know-how to help address the government and building industry’s increasing race toward decarbonization.”

4. Employers Are Hiring Right Now—Pay Rates Are Up

According to Robinson, the Bureau of Labor Statistics now estimates 4 million vacancies in HVAC nationally. Because of the current shortage of HVAC workers, pay has escalated. “I don’t think many people know that a high school student can enter this trade and in five years, with on-the-job-training, easily be making over $100,000 a year,” he says.

5. Scholarships Are Available for Training and Credentials

Johnson Controls is investing in developing its workforce at Montgomery College through the Johnson Controls Community College Program, which has awarded two $95,000 grants to the MC Foundation during the past two years, which are benefitting MC’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) program. The funds are providing students with academic success coaches (in partnership with its Achieving the Promise Academy) and supporting the creation of a building systems automation lab in MC’s Homer S. Gudelsky Institute for Technical Education in Rockville.

“The reason we are investing in programs at Montgomery College,” Robinson says, “is we know students are engaging with their professors and peers in the classroom. They are getting the technical and soft skills needed. We want the whole package. We are committed to narrowing the skilled-labor gap by investing in tomorrow’s future-ready workforce and creating a pipeline of building experts ready to kick-start their careers.”