Right now in 2023, there is a huge demand for professionals in the HVAC industry — and therefore a need for HVAC training. There are a lot of factors creating an increased demand for various types of HVAC needs. Across the landscape there is a lot of pent up demand for construction, some of which may stem from people’s resistance to buying new buildings with interest rates at historically high levels.
There are major trends like electrification, increased ventilation requirements, higher efficiency standards and alternative energy all pushing for new HVAC systems and strategies. With HVAC systems typically making up around 40% of a building’s energy consumption, improvements to the HVAC systems can be low hanging fruit in a path to increased efficiency. Presently, there is a generation of HVAC professionals reaching the twilight of their career and a deficit of newcomers to meet this increased demand. So the time is right for someone to enter the HVAC field.
The 3 main types of companies in the industry
There are 3 main paths for working in the HVAC industry. These are:
- Engineering consulting
- Mechanical sub-contracting
- Equipment manufacturing/sales.
People from various backgrounds come into the HVAC industry and generally the best preparation for any of these career paths in HVAC is to have a bachelors of science in a technical field. Engineering is preferred but not an absolute requirement.
One educational path to highlight here are HVAC technical schools, which provide HVAC training on basics of refrigeration and electrical systems. These are usually taken by people entering the mechanical contractor field, but the honest truth is that these courses should be taken by HVAC professionals of ALL pathways to get a basic foundation on how systems generally work.
Luckily, today we have the benefit of YouTube and other resources at our fingertips. If someone is motivated enough, they can simply find the bulk of this material online. Of course, this is not as effective as being taught in a real-life classroom, but it’s better than not knowing the material at all.
Internships for students who need HVAC training
For those young people who are yet to enter the workforce and still in school, internships in nearly any business of the three industry types would be recommended. An internship is a low-pressure way to get exposure to the industry, learn some of the jargon and test out the work environment of a company with the possibility of full time employment after graduation.
Self-starters get ahead
As a young professional starting out in the HVAC field, the best thing you can do is to learn everything you can pertaining to your area of interest. For example, if you want to be a consulting engineer in HVAC, you will want to learn all of the basic principles of fans; fan curves, fan selection, troubleshooting air distribution issues, etc.
Resources for these can be found all over, which is great but can also be problematic. YouTube and other places on the internet have material, but one must be careful to learn from a reliable source. The best webinars, YouTube videos and articles come from agencies like ASHRAE, AMCA and other not-for-profit organizations. Next behind that are manufacturers who offer webinars, lunch-and-learns, and other resources.
Start with the absolute basics to gain a solid foundation so the more complicated topics are not overwhelming. Employers will provide some pertinent HVAC training, but this will typically be limited to things related to the tasks they assign. The young professional who goes through the effort to find the resources to learn on their own will quickly get ahead in their career. Joining industry groups like ASHRAE is an easy way to not only access educational resources but also to meet other people in the industry.
Find a Mentor
Whether someone works at a mechanical contractor or a manufacturer’s rep firm, there is usually a seasoned person with a lot of experience willing to teach the younger generation — a necessity when it comes to HVAC training. More effective/useful knowledge is passed down this way than any textbook or webinar will ever provide.
A mentor should be someone who is willing to provide informal guidance on various topics and be a trusted advisor. This is someone who can fill in the gaps to answer questions that come up from learning the basics and beyond. Some of their wisdom will be from painful mistakes they have made in their career and they are willing to share those insights and advice.
Further HVAC training education
One lesson to be learned in the HVAC industry is that the most successful people in this industry tend to be those who can combine the technical aspects of systems with business in some way. For example, if someone can understand the technical challenges of a chilled water plant, but also negotiate very well with clients they might have a bright future in the manufacturers rep world.
Depending on what the future aspirations might be, one may find themselves taking graduate studies. One recommended graduate program would be finance. Having a master’s degree in finance provides the HVAC professional with insights into how businesses are run. This is especially critical for someone who hopes to one day go out on their own and have their own business. Understanding financial fundamentals like how to read a balance sheet and how businesses successfully manage money can make the difference between a business that survives and one that dies after a few years.
It’s not all about what you know when it comes to HVAC training
Having technical know-how is very important in the HVAC industry, but how useful is this knowledge if nobody knows you have it? Having the right networking connections in any business is vital. These connections are what may bring a new job opportunity, a new partnership opportunity or the next client for your new business. Understanding how to connect with people is a critical skill that any serious professional needs to master if they want to see substantial success.
Every contractor needs to sell their services to a client, every consulting engineer needs to work well with an architect on a project, and every equipment vendor needs to be able to work with everyone to make sure the equipment they sell successfully goes into a project. Some people have a natural ability to work well with others and some people have trouble with this. For many engineers, this may be particularly challenging.
Those who struggle with interpersonal skills should look at enrolling in some courses like the Dale Carnegie training course. Courses like this teach people presentation skills, people skills and help with improving your ability to sell and deal with customer service. These soft skills are absolutely crucial to someone in the professional environment of any industry.