What No One Is Saying About the HVAC Technician Shortage 

What No One Is Saying About the HVAC Technician Shortage 

Savannah Bobo

View of the back of a man in a white hard hat as he works on HVAC system - HVAC technician shortage

Everyone’s talking about the HVAC technician shortage like it’s a huge surprise. Spoiler: it isn’t. It’s been looming for years, without much done to combat the problem’s sources. Here are a few issues you’ll find in just about every article about labor shortages in trades industries:

There’s currently a shortage of 110,000 HVAC technicians, with about 25,000 technicians leaving their company each year.

  • Aging Workforce: The seasoned pros in HVAC (along with electricians and plumbers) are looking to hang up their tools for good.
  • Youth Recruitment Gap: The amount of new workers joining trades industries isn’t what it should be.
  • Solutions: Some experts recommend things like “level systems” for career progression—because apparently, gamifying the job with badges and levels is supposed to be the magic pill.

OK… now let’s get real about the HVAC technician shortage.

Here’s what most think-pieces and reports won’t say about the real reasons we’re experiencing an HVAC tech shortage. There’s not just one, but two big elephants in the room that everyone is ignoring:

  • HVAC work is undervalued. Society still snubs its nose at HVAC work and most other trades, painting them as second-string choices.
  • HVAC is a tough gig. We need to admit it—these jobs are no walk in the park. They’re hard, they’re risky, and they’re tough on the body.
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So, let’s start there, and we can have a real conversation about how you can fight the HVAC technician labor shortage.

So what are we going to do about it?

Now, for some no-nonsense advice that doesn’t involve condescending “level up” antics:

Prioritize Health

In a physically demanding field where the risks are high and the toll on the body is real, prioritizing health isn’t just about doing the right thing; it’s about strategic workforce sustainability. Introducing comprehensive healthcare, access to physical therapy, stringent safety protocols, and rewarding those who adhere to them not only enhances the appeal of the trade but also protects our most valuable asset: the technicians themselves.

  • Healthcare: First off, never skimp on healthcare benefits if you’re an employer. These techs deserve top-shelf benefits. They’re putting their bodies on the line for your business.
  • Physical Therapy: Shouldn’t regular access to a physical therapist be a no-brainer in such a physically demanding job? Physical therapy can help techs get back to work sooner, as well as teach them healthy practices for taking care of their bodies in the future.
  • Safety First: It’s time to double down on safety standards and mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE)—no excuses. Kneepads, hard hats, and other protective gear should be non-negotiable for every job.
  • Rewards Program: And yes, acknowledging and rewarding extra effort isn’t just nice—it’s essential. Reward HVAC techs without warning when they find ways to make work loads easier and use multiple sets of hands whenever possible. Make it part of your culture to reduce soreness and keep backbones spry.

Engage the Youth

It didn’t take the HVAC long to catch onto the fact that they need to engage young people.

What No One Is Saying About the HVAC Technician Shortage 

Companies have already partnered with schools and vocational training programs to show high schoolers that HVAC work can be rewarding and secure at a time when the return on a college degree is uncertain at best.

“Rising pay and new technologies in fields from welding to machine tooling are giving trade professions a face-lift, helping them shed the image of being dirty, low-end work. Growing skepticism about the return on a college education, the cost of which has soared in recent decades, is adding to their shine.”

—Te-Ping Chen for The Wall Street Journal
  • Community Outreach: Partner with worthy causes and non-profit organizations in your community. This isn’t just good karma—it will show off your company’s values to a generation that’s incredibly interested in what you stand for. Are you committed to energy efficient systems that lower carbon emissions? Do you donate to organizations that help families and children? Then say it with your whole chest to attract new HVAC techs that fit your culture perfectly.
  • Trade Apprenticeships: Given that 75% of high school grads are eyeing vocational training, shouldn’t we make HVAC a no-brainer choice? Offer awesome trade apprenticeships that prove you’re an awesome company to work for. Don’t assume that Gen Z will dismiss anything that doesn’t involving getting paid to play Call of Duty. They’re interested in fulfilling work and leadership they can respect.

Shift Perceptions

Let’s face it: the HVAC industry suffers from a serious PR problem. It’s plagued with outdated stereotypes of grimy, back-breaking work that’s just a fallback career. But here’s the real deal: HVAC is evolving rapidly, fusing cutting-edge technologies with essential skills that our modern world relies on. Let’s shift perceptions and make this field not just a viable option, but a coveted one.

  • Update the Trade Image: Recent trends show that tides are turning. The allure of traditional college degrees dims under the heavy shadow of soaring tuition costs, and trades are stepping into the spotlight. A Wall Street Journal report highlights that vocational training is gaining traction. Specifically, HVAC-related courses saw a 7% increase in enrollment in 2023 alone. This shift suggests a growing recognition of the value that trades like HVAC provide—not just as job options, but as promising careers.
  • Leverage Digital Platforms: To really change how trades are perceived, especially among the younger generations, you have to meet them where they spend most of their time—social media. One-third of adults under 30 cite TikTok as their top news source, and 40% of Gen Z use TikTok and Instagram for search instead of Google. If you want new HVAC techs, you may need to start learning some TikTok dances.
  • Show HVAC Is Future-Proof: In an era where AI and automation are looming threats over many industries, HVAC stands out as a haven of job security. The tactile, hands-on skills required to repair and maintain HVAC systems are far from being replicated by robots. As Nick Largura, CEO of Superior Construction, points out, trades offer not only stability but also the gratification of seeing tangible results from one’s work.

Conclusion: Building Futures, Not Just Filling Jobs

The HVAC technician shortage isn’t just a gap—it’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to overhaul outdated perceptions, introduce meaningful initiatives, and demonstrate that HVAC careers are not just vital, but fulfilling. Prove that being HVAC tech isn’t just another job—it’s a career that makes a tangible difference in real lives and eliminates uncertainty about the future.