HVAC Jobs Are Essential. Better Training Solutions Will Ensure the Workforce Exists.
By Andrea Adams
The pandemic highlighted what those working in the skilled trades already knew–the jobs they perform are essential to the health, wellbeing and sustainability of individuals and communities. However, the lack of skilled technicians–prevalent before the pandemic and even more prevalent in recent months– highlights the persistent skills gap that exists, particularly in HVAC and other trades.
Whether due to increased demand or an aging workforce, employers need effective solutions that help attract individuals to the field as well as upskill those currently employed in the industry to ensure they are able to meet the need.
Addressing Skill Shortages with New Solutions
Today’s skills gaps illustrate that the traditional means of hiring, upskilling and reskilling HVAC technicians aren’t making the cut. In an increasingly digital world, in-person training that removes technicians from jobs for hours or days is no longer effective. At the same time, completion and pass rates for employee training don’t seem to be keeping up with the rate of change in the industry. Employers increasingly need to harness innovation and adopt technology-enabled approaches to more effectively deliver training.
Flexible, virtual training, for instance, can be combined with on-the job application in the field to maintain worker productivity and ensure successful skill development. Historically, there’s been resistance to online training within trades industries like HVAC, but if thoughtfully executed, it can have a multiplier effect on outcomes — and lead to significant cost savings.
Some will argue that hands-on skills required in the trades can’t be taught online. However, if employers can strike a balance between technology-enabled training, on-the-job practice and ongoing collaboration with training partners, they can better support their existing employees and get them to where they need to be to keep up with industry demands. Implementing an effective training strategy that supports employees through the process can also help employers combat resource constraints and operational obstacles in the way of growth.
Evolving HVAC Training
Altierus Training Solutions recently partnered with a national leader in retail, commercial and industrial HVAC systems and refrigeration to develop a technology-enabled, multi-level training program for its field technicians. Our partner’s internal training program had historically been an integral part of its success, yet in a new era of growth, they recognized a need to sustain progress by developing a more scalable solution that could quickly be implemented at new company sites without compromising quality and outcomes.
Many HVAC employers understand the importance of–and requirement for–training, but they struggle to acquire talent at the exact level they need in the workforce. At the same time, in-person training can become expensive, ineffective and laborious–from distributing materials to managing travel and the related costs. Taking technicians out of the field for extended periods can also impact productivity and revenue.
Recognizing these factors, Altierus Training Solutions partnered to build a technology-forward training solution that kept technicians on the job while providing trainee support and mentoring throughout the process. It’s not enough to simply provide a training platform. Effective solutions combine the best elements of virtual learning with human interaction, giving technicians the opportunity to take what they’ve learned through virtual concept building and simulations into the field and practice under the eyes of more experienced professionals. We have also seen the importance of working together to onboard managers, mentors and technicians, as well as providing coaching and support resources to help drive positive outcomes.
A Collaborative Approach Leads to Success
By combining technology-enabled, worker-centered training programs with coaching and support, employers can more effectively bring new workers up to speed and upskill existing technicians to meet industry demands. A collaborative approach that brings the human element into training can help employers evolve the mindset of technicians who have been in the industry for years and may want to adhere to tradition.
At the same time, virtual, skill-based training meets the needs of the next generation of workers who expect a more digital approach to work. For Altierus Training Solutions, this approach paid off with a 90 percent in-field pass rate on training since the launch of the partnership in the fall of 2020. This strategy can also help employers be more adaptable to change and quickly address rapid industry growth.
Moving beyond the pandemic, HVAC jobs will remain essential. Taking a different approach to employee growth and training will help prepare employers for whatever the future holds. By incorporating training and supports into everyday work, employers can build a culture of growth that fosters a more capable workforce while keeping technicians on the job and maintaining a talent pipeline, all while reducing costs.
Andrea Adams is the vice president of Altierus Training Solutions, an affiliate of ECMC Group.