RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Triangle is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and as the population grows, the HVAC industry is juggling more maintenance requests than technicians.
Some Wake County schools continue to operate on temporary equipment after air conditioning issues caused early dismissals this school year, according to a recent school board meeting.
“I think it’s important that they have somebody to take care of it,” said Cole Hunt, a student who grew up in the school district and now attends Wake Technical Community College.
He is training to be an HVAC technician to prevent problems like these.
“I like helping people out,” he explained. “It just makes me happy to see people when their air conditioner is back up and running.”
As he enters the industry, he’ll be much younger than the majority of technicians, who are nearing retirement age.
“Now with how society is, most people don’t want to work with their hands and do physical labor jobs,” Hunt explained. “All they want is white-collar jobs. And it’s really showing that we need people out in the field helping our community.”
“This is the type of position that you cannot outsource. Someone has to be here,” said James Freeman, Program Director for AC, Heating and Refrigeration at Wake Tech.
Freeman says the program is working to keep up as more people and businesses move to the area.
“For every seven retirees, only three people are going into the industry. Those are our current numbers,” he said. “And they don’t include the Department of Labor’s 5% growth in jobs, so we are losing more than is going into the industry.”
Companies that supply HVAC equipment to contractors are also seeing the change.
“It just seems like every year it’s starting to get slimmer and slimmer,” said JJ Bogle, branch manager for Johnstone Supply. “We actually have a bulletin board up here, we let companies put up a ‘looking for help’ sign, and it seems like it fills up more every year.”
“Nobody’s ever going to not need heating and air,” he further explained. “So it’s good to get into that trade because you’ll always have job security.”
Freeman says he has seen an increase in income for Wake Tech’s HVAC students — a good sign for the industry.
“They need good jobs,” he explained. “The industry partners are paying really well in order to help meet this need for the investment the Wake County taxpayers are paying for this training.”
He also shared his story working in the industry.
“I got involved in this industry when I was 16 years old,” he said. “I’ve been in this industry my whole life. It’s afforded me the opportunity to provide very well for my family.”
Wake Tech and Wake County Schools are working together to train facility maintenance techs at the district’s Vernon Malone College and Career Academy. Many of those students work in HVAC.
The North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program (NCTAP) has also signed on Brady as a new company for a youth apprenticeship program.