Skilled to Work: Lack of trained heating and air technicians cause difficulty for local companies

North Alabama sees about 140 annual openings for heating and air conditioning technicians on average, according to the Department of Labor.

Posted: Jul 18, 2019 1:28 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2019 7:36 AM

With the heat index value in the Tennessee Valley expected to hit between 98 and 106 degrees over the next couple of days, many people are putting more pressure on their air conditioning units. 

More focus on AC units can lead to more calls to fix them and for some local companies that means they stay especially busy. 

Local heating and air conditioning programs:

  • Calhoun Community College
    • https://calhoun.edu/technologies/air-conditioning-and-refrigeration/
  • Drake State Community and Technical College
    • http://www.drakestate.edu/academic-programs/heating-air-conditioning-technology
  • Wallace State Community College
    • http://www.wallacestate.edu/programs/technical-division/heating-and-air-conditioning
Chris Desadier works to install a new air conditioning unit for Environmental Services Corporation. Chris Desadier works to install a new air conditioning unit for Environmental Services Corporation.

However, finding qualified people to come work on heating and air systems can be difficult.

"I looked at 75 to 100 applications to hire two people," said Stephen Grimes, the vice president of Environmental Systems Corporation.

Grimes has worked for his family's business for more than 20 years. He said one of the challenges he faces is that many of the people who want a job in the industry don't have the training to do so.

"Unfortunately, while I can bring some people in like that, and we have and do, there’s only so many non-experienced, non-trained people you can bring on board to fill immediate needs," said Grimes.

And there is an ongoing need. According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the state has about 655 annual openings on average for HV/AC technicians. About 140 of those are in the Tennessee Valley.

According to Calhoun Community College, the range of base salaries, from entry to experienced, is roughly between $37,000 to $63,000.

Chris Desadier has also been in the business for nearly 20 years. He said the industry has been evolving over the years and he enjoys the ever-changing challenge.

"I can’t sit behind a desk or work in a building and stay there all day long and do the same thing over and over. Even though it’s still working on air conditioning, it’s a different problem every time you go to one," said Desadier.

And while community colleges, like Calhoun, are working to train the next generation of HV/AC techs, Grims worries that without more interest at the high school level, the worker shortage will only get worse.

"For every one that retires, you’ve got less than one coming in, so there’s going to be a shortage. I think in time you will see that begin to catch up, but that may take nearly a generation to get there, honestly," said Grimes.

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