The heating, ventilation and air conditioning sector is experiencing strong growth and this is highlighting a skills gap issue that has been building up for some time.
With a large proportion of the workforce approaching retirement and a deficit in the volume of young HVAC and engineering talent coming through, employers are having to think outside the box to find the people they need to help them achieve their business goals.
Savvy HVAC employers have grasped the fact that the key to filling the skills gap lies in their ability to inspire the next generation. Less than two thirds of Year 11 students claim to have received careers advice and there is a particular lack of guidance in areas such as engineering, which is closely related to HVAC. This has led some employers to launch their own apprenticeship schemes and degree apprenticeship programmes. Here at Thornhvac we launched a degree apprenticeship last year to provide school leavers with a chance to earn while they learn and we hope this will prove to be a successful way to grow our own business.
Niche recruitment consultants like Thornhvac are playing a vital role in supporting ambitious HVAC companies by matching the skills they need with high performing candidates who may not currently be looking for work. Sometimes, these candidates are employed outside the HVAC sector but have the kind of sales, project management or engineering skills that are valued by heating, ventilation and air conditioning employers.
A report by Engineering UK found that, despite the fact that women make up 46.9 per cent of the workforce, only 20.5 per cent of them work in the engineering sector. Even fewer (12 per cent) work in core engineering roles. Encouraging more women to consider HVAC and engineering as a career option is a powerful way to fill the skills gap and a number of programmes have been launched by employers to encourage applications from women. The HVAC sector in the US has gone a step further by having its own organisation Women in HVACR providing mentoring, networking and guidance to encourage more women into HVAC professions.
Across the EU, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering jobs typically experience skills bottlenecks. What this means is that companies are failing to fill these vacancies due to skills shortages and this is impacting on their ability to innovate and grow. Smart companies are overcoming these bottlenecks through a range of initiatives such as developing incentives to attract the best candidates and focusing on enhancing management structure and company culture so that they are regarded as top employers. Thornhvac recently surveyed HVAC employees to find out which HVAC companies they perceive as being the best to work for and why.
Some forward thinking HVAC companies are offering structured internships and student placements for undergraduates in a range of disciplines. These vary widely but typically cover building services experience, training in the use of CAD software and practical skills development in mechanical and electrical engineering. Once a student has completed a successful internship or placement they are often offered a permanent role with the company when they complete their studies.