Want to go into a career that will always be in demand? Consider HVAC. Because nearly every building has a climate control system, Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) will always be a career with opportunity.
And now, more than ever.
Baby boomers are retiring and Gen X is much smaller than the previous generation, leaving fewer workers to fill the openings. Additionally, education has placed intense focus on university career tracks, largely ignoring the skilled trades. The result? A severe shortage of HVAC professionals.
Dan Dearden, owner of Just Right Heating & Cooling, wants to give a shout-out not only to the ventilation service technicians at their Salt Lake office who make service calls from Draper to Layton and from Magna to Park City, but also to all the skilled HVAC professionals everywhere that keep us from being too hot or too cold.
Dan has nearly 40 years of experience in the Salt Lake City, Utah heating and air conditioning installation and repair business. His advice to those considering a career in heating and air conditioning systems?
Dan began his career in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) 38 years ago at the suggestion of his father. "I didn't really like school much...In my senior year, my dad said to me, 'You like doing things with your hands. You're very mechanical.' He knew I liked the outdoors," explains Dan. Right out of high school, Dan chose heating and air conditioning repair as a career and hasn't looked back. "I went to technical college in HVAC and here I am."
Dan’s goal is to provide the best heating and air conditioning installation and repair service in Salt Lake. The business has grown through word of mouth and excellent online reviews. Dan insists on hiring professionals for Just Right who provide excellent service and take care of the customers. In turn, Dan strives to provide opportunities to employees for advancement, growth, achievement, and job satisfaction.
Dan along with Just Right's Installation Manager, John Owen and Kent, a Senior Service Technician, offer 6 compelling reasons for considering a career in HVAC:
Let's face it. The average worker will be in the workforce for 45, maybe even 50 years. That's a long time. No one likes to feel like a robot on their job; they want to have challenges and be able to overcome problems.
That's what HVAC professionals do every day: solve problems. Heating and air service technicians need to be able to look at a system, figure out why it isn't working, and make the repair. It takes mechanical skill, technical aptitude, and practical knowledge. Every furnace or air conditioning repair requires the ability to look at the entire system and fix the problem.
It can be immensely gratifying to be faced with new challenges to solve. Dan explains that even with his years of experience, heating and air conditioning service still offers a challenge: "I can still be stumped. I can still go out and find something I really have to think about and ask 'why isn't this working?"
John Owen, the Installation Manager at Just Right, agrees it's a field that offers the chance for continual hands-on learning. "I've always found that it's a knowledge-rich environment. If you put forth the effort than you are rewarded with vast amounts of knowledge." John got into the trade by helping his friend and his friend's father.
Besides being a rewarding and challenging, a career in air conditioning and heater repair means a change of pace. Every day.
If you're not the type to be trapped in a building all day, a career in HVAC makes a lot of sense. Service calls make everyday different. "You're never, ever doing the same thing any day of the week," emphasizes Dan. Everyday, you work with different equipment and in different places.. "You're in rooms. You're in crawl spaces. You're in attics. You're in basements. You're outside.... It's always challenging."
You get to work with a lot of people and see a lot of the city when you're in HVAC repair. Just Right installs and repairs air conditioners and furnaces in the Salt Lake area: Layton, Bountiful, Park City, Cottonwood Heights, West Valley, Salt Lake City, Draper, South Jordan, Magna, and anywhere in between.
The service calls mean you're not confined to an office. The different types of work available for HVAC professionals mean there's plenty of variety in your work. New air conditioning installation, new furnace installation, air conditioning repair, and furnace repair are all part of the heating and air conditioning profession. HVAC technicians also work with air purification systems, humidifiers, and radiant heating.
Dan is passionate about the career and the range of experiences HVAC offers. He says, "I love the variety, the challenges. It's just fun." John also likes the variety of the heating and air conditioning business. He says, "It's always different and never feels monotonous."
Because of Utah's four seasons, heating and air conditioning service in Salt Lake City, Utah will always provide its HVAC technicians with a change of pace. Utah winters are cold and Utah summers are warm and dry, giving plenty of variety to the needed repairs and installation.
Most everyone appreciates Salt Lake City's array of temperatures... until their furnace or air conditioner stops working. When your furnace stops in the winter, it's dangerous for your family. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning--not to mention freezing nearly to death--makes furnace repair or replacement essential. Pipes can freeze and burst, causing thousands of dollars in damage. In the summer, an air conditioning that doesn't work makes the Salt Lake summers almost unbearable. A career in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning gives you the chance to help others be the master of their home, just like Yoda helped Luke Skywalker become a Jedi master..
Dan shares his excitement for the HVAC field: "What I love about heating and air conditioning is that it's very challenging, it's very technical, and you get to be the hero a lot. When you show up at someone's home or business, they have a problem and you get to fix it...you get to make people comfortable and happy, and you get to use your skills."
HVAC is a service-oriented profession, but you're not just helping other people by choosing a career in heating and air, you're also doing yourself a service. The HVAC industry is stable because as long as there are buildings, they will need skilled professionals to keep them in working order.
The economy will always fluctuate. Construction jobs will be in demand at some times and at other times they will be scarce. Manufacturing jobs are constantly being outsourced overseas. Heating and air conditioning jobs, however, will always be in demand. Why? Because nearly every building has a heating and air conditioning system.
Tom Dearden, Just Right's president, puts it this way, "The HVAC industry does, and will continue to, provide a great career opportunity for individuals who enjoy working with people, have an aptitude for technical work and seek job security...While many jobs in many industries, including those in the computer industry, are moved out of the country, HVAC jobs will continue to exist in every community where there are people in buildings."
Some people say that heating and air conditioning is a seasonal job. While that may be true in some climates, Utah is not one of them. The four seasons make it so that heaters or air conditioners are needed throughout the year (sometimes we need both the furnace and the ac in the same week!)
There will always be work for the right people. John explains that his career in HVAC "has always provided well for me and my family, however, I always pushed to better myself and that became a big reason why I didn't feel the affects of the seasons as much as some."
"You can always count that somebody somewhere is hiring in this field. Whether it's residential, commercial, industrial, or controls." Controls is a more computer-oriented specialty in the HVAC field where a systems expert controls the heating and air systems for large buildings via a master control panel.
Tom talks about the income potential for certified HVAC professionals, "As more and more of the rising generation seek soft professions such as business and computers, HVAC employees will find the market for their services to be in high demand. High demand equates to high income potential."
"People need to know that the trades are a viable career option," explains Ann Mackin, Commissioner of Instruction at Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT). "They make real money that can support them well."
If you're still of the mindset that you need an Associate's or Bachelor's degree, consider Ann's philosophy of education: "Young people entering their education should have a vocation and an avocation. The vocation is a skill that will actually support you. The avocation is an interest like history, political science, sociology."
We might be biased, but at Just Right we think a career in furnace and air conditioning repair in Salt Lake City is an excellent choice. Because of the constant demand for skilled professionals, there is high income potential. John says about his career decision, "It is an extremely rewarding, and challenging career that teaches you great life skills as well as technical skills, and allows you to make a comfortable living."
Kent says of his choice to become a heating and air conditioning specialist, "There's something different everyday to do. It's challenging. It pays well."
Dan has always been glad his father suggested the heating and air conditioning profession: "My dad said, 'People will always need heating and air conditioning.' I took his advice."
There are basically two paths to becoming a heating and air conditioning technician. The first path is by being an apprentice. Often, heating and air conditioning contractors will hire people who have a mechanical aptitude and are teachable. They begin their HVAC career as an installer and and supplement their on-the-job training with formal education. Taking classes two nights a week, an apprentice can complete an HVAC certificate in about four years.
The second path, a full-time training program, can be completed in under eighteen months.This path, though less common than apprenticeship programs, is the track Dan recommends. Besides being co-owner of Just Right Heating & Cooling, Dan Dearden sits on the HVAC boards of both Davis Applied Technology College and Salt Lake Community College, two schools that provide HVAC certificates.
If you're a high school student interested in HVAC careers, you can get a jump-start on your education while still in high school. Both Davis Applied Technology College (DATC) and Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) offer a partnership with high schools where high school students can be trained in technical education careers tuition-free. If you're still in high school, look into the program.
If you're young and still in school, Kent gives this advice: "Stay in school. There's a lot of algebra that's used and a lot of engineering." Kent also explains there are highs and lows to an HVAC career. "There's a lot of on-call work and you work a lot of hours. There's also a lot of downtime, but there are a lot of 12-hour days." Kent's ultimate advice? "Start as soon as possible!"
At Just Right in Salt Lake City, we hire people who are clean cut. We require drug tests upon hiring and then randomly. We are looking for people who are good at solving problems and are great with people.
Stacie Weatbrook, MA, teaches at Salt Lake Community College and is an adamant believer in skill-based education. She is also a fan of being warm in the winter and cool in the summer.