The HVAC market is on the rise, as seen in various reports in the past 5 years, showing promising economic growth into the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States, “the HVAC industry is expected to grow by 34 percent, with an additional 90 300 jobs needing to be filled in the future as extreme weather and aging equipment threaten citizens”. The growing demand for these workers is due to the wave of retiring HVAC mechanics and technicians from the baby-boom era, and calls for young, ready, and able replacements as more than 267 000 installers and mechanics were hired in 2010.
There has been a shortage of HVACR employees both in the United States and Canada. As a result, employers are facing hiring lags 36 to 44 days longer than the national average in order to hire refrigeration or HVAC technicians due to the simple lack of them around. Nevertheless, there is currently a push at the high school and college/university level to educate students about heating and ventilation as a career.
As Kari M. Arfstrom, executive director of the HVACR Foundation, mentioned: “With HVACR certifications or an associate’s degree, new employees can be assured of a solid middle class job that cannot be off shored, is high-tech, and offers better than average pay.” In addition, the industry offers a great avenue for students coming out of a college or university-level mechanical technologist, certified engineering technologist, mechanical/aerospace/civil engineering program, or a refrigeration or HVAC technician program. Students who are interested in pursuing these type of avenues should opt for heating, refrigeration, heat transfer, airflow control, control systems, and technical hands-on programs dealing with Building Management Systems or heating and cooling, in general.
ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) also offers a membership for students at reduced pricing, which offers an entry into the industry in terms of technical tradeshows and presentations, networking, meetings and dinners, to name a few, as well as access to a wide array of technical information and standards useful to HVACR employees. Technical and electronic skills are highly in demand, as well as technical writing and software development, so it is important to develop those if an HVACR is a career in mind.
Due to the push for greener and more efficient technologies with the impending challenges threatening climate changes, jobs such as energy auditing, equipment testing, and performance testing specialists have surged in demand. HVAC companies are prepared to take on a wave through their access to numerous apprenticeships and training programs and a path from maintenance to management is easily attainable in this industry. The very nature of the HVACR industry allows for a large breadth of customer base and promotes flourishing of business relations. In the case of laboratories, health care, and research, critical airflow is required around the clock. It is needed in schools, offices, airports, warehouses, hospitals, labs, factories, etc. and as such, the maintenance of these systems will always be required, in general. The challenge in our industry is to reduce the maintenance as much as possible, but it is inevitable that the demand for these technicians will arise with the ever-increasing construction and retrofitting of infrastructure globally.
In Canada, this is a never-ending job as the range of climates and temperatures faced here are drastic and require a solid control algorithm and strategy for appropriate heating, cooling, pressurization, and in some cases, containment of buildings and spaces. The real challenge is gearing down the systems when they do not need to operate at one hundred percent of their capacity, for example, at night or during unoccupied hours. This turndown is much greater in Canada and technicians are constantly needed to ensure their turndown does not cause unnecessary or additional operational costs to the owner or manager. All in all, a career in HVACR engineering, service, or sales offers a rewarding opportunity and experience in joining an industry battling with the challenges of climate change.