Employment in construction trades, where commercial HVAC and industrial refrigeration are classified, is expected to increase by 18 percent in Q1 of 2018, according to a December 2017 report by the Manpower Group. As of 2015, the HVACR market was worth $81 billion.
Meeting this growth could be challenging because of an aging workforce and a perception that the trades—including commercial HVAC and industrial refrigeration—are not acceptable alternatives to a four-year college education.
The first challenge to meet this growing demand will be the skills gap in the workforce as the Baby Boomers retire with their years of institutional knowledge. Some 31 million boomers are expected to retire from the skilled trades by 2020—that’s less than two years away!
In New Jersey, Forbes estimates 60 percent of the skilled workforce is 45 or older. This leaves a huge gap in the workforce.
A report from the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation states that The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are currently 267,600 HVACR mechanics and installers in the United States. It estimates 115,000 new HVACR workers must be trained by 2022 to meet the anticipated demand. The HVACR Report also states that HVACR jobs are very stable means of employment that gives workers a strong financial future and that the jobs cannot be offshored. In New Jersey, HVACR jobs are generally filled in less than 30 days.
Refrigeration technician positions are among the hardest to fill, with jobs being posted for an average of 44 days, according to the The Next Generation of HVACR Installers and Technicians: What Instructors are Saying and What Needs to be Done About It report. An HVAC mechanic position is filled on average in 36 days. What this means is people trained in these skills are valuable and very employable.
The HVAC industry is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 5.5 percent between 2016 and 2020, reaching an opportunity worth $130.7 billion by the end of the forecast period fueled mainly by growth in refrigeration, according to a new report by Transparency Market Research written about in the News.
To meet these needs, more attention is being focused on the trades—such as industrial HVAC and commercial refrigeration—and the vocational training necessary, like programs the New Jersey unions run, to train these workers. In the union program, which is run co-operatively between four union locals in the Garden State, students receive 9,000 hours of training in five years while they are out in the field apprenticing with an experienced journeyman to truly learn the trade.
Part of the problem recruiters are running into is the perception of the trades and many are launching efforts to change this and get the message out that a career in the trades, particularly union trades, provides a good living with a high wage, benefits and job security.
Another hurdle to overcome is the misconception that every student must go to a four-year college to be successful. “For two or three generations, the focus has been to go to college, get a degree and in doing so you will ensure a brighter future with more access to employment,” said Dr. Genevieve Stevens, interim dean of instruction for Houston Community College at Central College in a Houston Chronicle story. “We started focusing on academic instruction, but left behind the notion of work-force education.”
The post millennials, known as Generation Z, are prime candidates to take advantage of these commercial HVAC and industrial refrigeration job opportunities. These individuals have the opportunity for on-the-job training and to earn a good wage while they learn.
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.
To learn how to set yourself up for career success and a strong financial future in a growing industry, find your local union.