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June 5, 2024 Politics & Policy

HVAC association asks for more workforce development support in annual summit

CHCC Executive Director Jenn Jennings speaks during her organization's annual summer in Hartford.

An association of HVAC professionals is hoping the state ramps up its focus on getting young people to join its workforce as the industry faces a nationwide workforce shortage.

The Connecticut Heating and Cooling Contractors (CHCC) association hosted a workforce summit at the state Legislative Office Building this week to highlight the need to bolster the local HVAC workforce. Citing recent industry data, CHCC President Stillman Jordan said there is a shortage of 110,000 HVAC technicians nationwide, with about 25,000 leaving the trade or retiring annually.

Jordan said with the surge of Baby Boomers retiring, a generation that makes up almost one-third of the country’s entire workforce, all industries will need more workers.

“The Baby Boomer generation is the backbone of the trades,” Jordan said. “They are also the largest group to retire over the next 10 years.”

To help recruit new skilled talent, CHCC Executive Director Jenn Jennings said it was important to “provide more access points and exposure” to trades in public high schools, rather than fully relying on vocational or technical schools. Expanding opportunities for young people who aren’t interested in going to college after high school is crucial to mitigating workforce shortages in the future, she said.

Stillman said Connecticut’s continued focus on energy efficiency, indoor air quality and reducing its carbon footprint will come with the need for more experienced HVAC workers to reach certain environmental goals.

“We need to get more efficient — heating and cooling is one of the largest consumers of energy, bar none, and we have to address it,” Stillman said. “One of the ways that the statehouse has advocated for that is heat pump conversions. Well, this is the trade that’s going to do that work … and will be a part of the transition to heat pumps.”

Stillman added that housing initiatives in the state are also contingent on having a network of HVAC professionals to outfit new properties.

“You have all these forces, all these things that are leading to a huge problem — we do not have enough people to do the work demands of today, and unless we make drastic changes to the availability of our workforce, we have no shot to accomplish the goals that are being set here,” Stillman said.

State Reps. Jill Barry (D-Glastonbury) and Tim Ackert (R-Coventry) were both on hand at the event to offer their support for the industry's workforce initiatives.

Ackert, a licensed electrical contractor who owns Coventry-based Ackert Electric LLC, said he hasn’t supported certain energy-related bills because they haven’t properly addressed building up the workforce needed to make them a reality.

Ackert led an unsuccessful push last legislative session to reduce the state’s apprenticeship hiring ratio, which he and others argue would help bolster Connecticut’s trade industry workforce.

“The problem is that we don’t have the bodies to do the agenda you want us to do,” Ackert said of the state’s climate initiatives. “We need a top-down approach to this. It has to come from the executive branch office with partnership with the legislature.”

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