*This article is part 1 of 5
“Interested in HVACR? Train for one of the HOTTEST careers around!”
“Ready to train for a really COOL job? Learn to be an HVACR technician!”
As these two slogans show, the easiest part of setting up a modern HVACR training program is coming up with a punny catchphrase to draw interest. If you’re a career and technical education (CTE) instructor or a trainer in industry looking to train the next generation of HVACR technicians, you probably already know that starting a new HVACR training program from scratch can be challenging.
Fortunately, the experts at Amatrol are here to help you. With more than 30 years of experience, Amatrol remains the world’s leader in hands-on technical training. Our HVACR training systems and eLearning curriculum are second to none.
In this series of articles, we will walk you through step-by-step how to set up a modern HVACR training program that will ensure that your students or workers possess the knowledge and hands-on HVACR skills they need to succeed in the workplace.
This article will focus on the basics of HVACR, including the need for highly-skilled HVACR technicians, as well as the role HVACR training plays in today’s CTE programs or workplace. With a clear vision of the need for HVACR training, subsequent articles will explore a variety of topics, including which skills HVACR technicians need, how to teach advanced smart HVACR controls, and much more!
What Does HVACR Stand for?
If you’re reading this article, you probably already know that HVACR stands for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration. But it never hurts to start with the basics when you’re building a training program.
For many years, the technicians that installed, maintained, and repaired residential heating and cooling systems were known as HVAC technicians, reflecting the focus on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Many people still use HVAC as a preferred acronym today.
However, this field is increasingly known as HVACR (sometimes written HVAC-R) to reflect the importance of commercial refrigeration in addition to residential heating and cooling systems. You know the freezer case in your local grocery store and the “beer cave” in your corner convenience store? Those are also installed, maintained, and repaired by HVACR technicians.
So what does an HVACR technician do? As we’ve already alluded to, HVACR technicians install, maintain, and repair the electrical and mechanical climate-control systems that heat, cool, and ventilate indoor environments, as well as commercial refrigerators and freezers in business environments.
HVACR technicians work with a variety of systems, including air conditioners, furnaces, air ducts, thermostats, and a wide variety of piping and vents. Technicians must also work with liquid refrigerants, as well as oil, gas, and/or electrical systems that generate heat.
How Quickly is the HVACR Industry Growing?
The question posed at the beginning of this article — why teach HVACR? — can most simply be answered by looking at supply and demand. Highly-skilled HVACR technicians are in high demand today and the industry continues to grow rapidly. The world needs more HVACR technicians.
With heat wave after heat wave and temperatures setting new records year after year, the demand for qualified HVACR installers and technicians is greater than ever. Unfortunately, supply isn’t keeping up with demand, creating a critical shortage of these important workers.
In addition to simply not having enough HVACR workers, modern advancements in smart technologies being incorporated into HVACR products has created a need for HVACR workers with new, cutting-edge technology skills. For example, many new HVACR systems can be connected to the Internet and controlled remotely via smartphone apps. Technicians must know how to install, operate, and maintain these new systems. Unfortunately, an HVACR skills gap has left many companies scrambling to find the highly-skilled workers they so desperately need.
According to an Emerson Climate Conversations blog article by Don Gillis, “[n]early 40 percent of the jobs available in the HVACR industry are unfilled. That’s about 80,000 good-paying positions for technicians who can install, maintain and repair…critical refrigeration equipment.”
Experts believe the problem is only going to worsen in the future. According to a San Joaquin Valley College Blog article, “the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of [HVACR] mechanic and installer jobs to increase significantly [in coming years].”
Indeed, an article by The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigerating Institute (AHRI) in The Future of Business and Tech blog reports that “[t]he Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates [HVACR] jobs will increase 15 percent per year through 2026; more than twice the average for all other occupations.”
Gillis sums up the bleak situation succinctly: “If we do not hire and train new technicians, our industry could potentially face a deficit of 100,000 workers within the next five years.” With a clear need for more highly-skilled HVACR technicians, instructors and employers have plenty of motivation to focus on HVACR training.
What Role Does HVACR Play in Modern Career and Technical Education?
Many of today’s career and technical education programs have begun to focus on the advanced automation technologies creating a new “Industrial Revolution” throughout every industry. Known frequently as “Industry 4.0,” these technologies are changing the way industry works, leading to huge leaps in productivity and efficiency.
However, students and workers must learn to walk before they can run. Fundamental skills in a variety of areas, including electrical and mechanical, still form the solid foundation of any CTE training program. Moreover, there is much to be gained by preparing students and workers for careers in growing industries where they can hit the ground running, putting their skills to use to make a good living.
As the San Joaquin Valley College Blog article notes, “[t]he [HVACR] industry offers good pay – average salaries are over $49,000, plus bonuses and overtime. But despite the potential appeal of working as an HVACR technician, the number of new entrants in the field is failing to keep pace with America’s growing demand.”
Gillis points out that students should consider a career in HVACR, because “[t]he reality is that there’s an abundance of lucrative opportunities for young people who want a long-term career path without the time commitment and cost of a four-year college education.” In particular, Gillis notes that HVACR careers should appeal to students looking to “make an impact,” “work with cutting-edge tools and technologies,” “achieve job security,” and “earn while they learn” through apprenticeship programs.
Focusing a CTE training program on HVACR doesn’t preclude teaching advanced Industry 4.0 skills, however. As Gillis notes, “[m]odern refrigeration and air conditioning applications utilize advanced controls, software and remote diagnostics capabilities.”
Sadly, the chance to work with cutting-edge tools and technologies is a benefit of HVACR careers that actually contributes to the ongoing HVACR skills gap. Why? There simply aren’t enough workers with these advanced skills to keep up with demand. That’s why the AHRI notes that “the HVACR industry is committed to finding a new pool of dedicated people to begin a career that offers positions that can never be outsourced and will remain on the cutting edge of new technology.”
The Next Step
If you’re an instructor or employer looking to train the next generation of HVACR technicians, you’ve come to the right place. Amatrol can help you customize your training program to teach the hands-on skills employers truly need.
In the next article in this series, we’ll take a closer look at the particular skills modern HVACR technicians must have to be successful in the workplace. We’ll cover the fundamental basics, such as electrical and mechanical, as well as highlight the advanced skills specific to careers in HVACR.
About Duane Bolin
Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer in the technical training solutions market.