A career in the trades, particularly HVAC and refrigeration, is one that offers steady employment with rich benefits to ensure a strong financial future.
HVAC service technicians who are members of one of the four New Jersey United Association of New Jersey Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Division Locals have consistent hours, holidays and time off that support work-life balance when compared to non-union heating and cooling technicians. More than 700 contractors are looking for the best, highly skilled technicians for their jobs, ensuring work is always available.
HVAC isn’t just hot air
Nationally, there are 294,730 people employed in the HVAC field, according to 2016 U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS), the most recent available. New Jersey accounts for 10,110 of those workers.
The average national hourly wage is $23.23 with an average annual wage of $48,320, according to BLS data. This data shows the average annual New Jersey wage to be $58,420 or $28.08 per hour.
The average union wage is $58.89 among the four New Jersey HVAC unions, which equates to $122,903 annually when calculated with the national standard of 2,087 hours per year for full time workers. This is 60 percent above the national average.
One key feature of union wages is the wage you are paid per hour includes benefits. Whereas in the private sector, benefits such as health insurance and retirement are taken out of your take-home pay.
Cool Benefits that Outweigh Private Sector
One way to get ahead with “union life” is accessibility and affordability of benefits, such as medical and retirement plans. Ninety-four percent of union workers had access to employer-sponsored retirement and medical care benefits, according to a July 2017 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For nonunion workers, 66 percent had access to retirement benefits and 67 percent to medical care benefits.
Employers assumed 87 percent of the premium for single coverage for union workers, compared to 79 percent for nonunion workers, according to BLS. For family coverage, union workers had 80 percent of the premium paid for by employers, whereas nonunion workers had 65 percent of the premium paid by employers.
Among union workers, 86 percent had access to life insurance benefits and for nonunion workers the rate was 55 percent.
Pension benefits, a vacation fund and education fund are also available.
Industry-Leading Education & Training
One of the best ways to get ahead in union life is through education. The HVAC unions offer an industry-leading, five-year training program to ensure technical expertise for heating and cooling technicians. The apprenticeship program is 9,000 hours of hands-on training and skill-building with an expert HVAC technician called a journeyman, plus classroom learning.
During the training process, apprentices are working alongside a master HVAC technician or refrigeration technician and getting paid. Yes, apprentices earn while they learn, as a CNN story showcased.
The apprentice training is more education for greater expertise than a standard technical school, which is 18 months to two years of education.
After the apprenticeship is successfully completed, a HVAC technician is always welcome back at the state-of-the-art training center to learn additional skills and get hands-on training in the latest advances in technology.
Getting ahead also means taking on leadership roles. One way to do that is to get involved with the union’s leadership team and volunteering for a committee or board position. Sitting on a committee or board gives you the experience of learning about finance, strategic planning, communication, marketing and lobbying that you probably will not get at a typical job site.
Another advantage to serving are the networking opportunities that will allow you to meet other HVAC service technicians who can serve as mentors and key players in the industry who may be able to open doors for you in the future.
As you develop your skills, you will increase your visibility within the union while building your resume.