The trades are desperate to replace the aging workforce

ESSEX, Vermont (WCAX) – Vermont, like many parts of the country, is facing a workforce crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. From healthcare workers to basic trades, businesses have the help they need to switch off. In a new series, we’re taking a look at some of the high-demand jobs and how employers are changing their recruiting strategies. Our Kayla Martin joined HVAC technician Mike Hauptman on a maintenance call as he prepared a heating system for the winter.

Mike Hauptman works for Alliance Mechanical Group, an Essex company that installs and services heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. It’s like a multitool and can do a lot of things. “Work on heating, air conditioning, refrigeration. We do the plumbing, the basic electricity, ”Hauptman said.

It takes a lot of manual work to maintain the systems to avoid problems that might arise in the future. On this call, it means changing the filters. “All that nasty stuff that you want to filter out.” But if you leave it, you leave dirty filters in there, you’re not really doing yourself a favor, ”Hauptman said.

Hauptman didn’t always expect to be an HVAC service technician. “Well, I actually went to college. Graduated from UVM in 2010 with a degree in nutrition and food science, ”he said. But he says he didn’t find many job opportunities in this field at the time. “I rethought it and went to business school for a year and just decided this was something that was going to be in high demand because really not a ton of people are going into it. . “

The high demand is fair. Jason Lyman, director at Alliance, says a majority of the industry’s workforce will be retiring within the next decade. “I think the statistics show that the average age of a service technician, plumber and sheet metal worker is in their 50s,” he said.

Shaun Patnaude, another Alliance official, says part of the problem stems from the choices students have about what to do after high school. “One of the things, I think, has always been a struggle for us to attract people into the trades, is that I think the trades have always had a bad reputation, there is a stigma,” a- he declared.

To help alleviate the labor shortage, Alliance has set up an apprenticeship program with the Center for Technology program at Essex High School. They give the students training at night and they can come to work and apply the skills during the day. Alliance needs experienced workers now, but it is investing resources in the next generation to hopefully secure workers for the future.

Those looking to enter the field and have no previous experience could expect to learn how to change a belt for a heating and cooling system from day one. First, they will inspect the belt for any wear. Then start at the corner and go around the belt until it comes off. They will want to do this for the upper and lower belts and then do these steps in reverse to put on the new one.

Hauptman says that a benefit of working isn’t being stuck behind a desk all day. “It’s good because it’s hard to be bored when you’re not in the same place every day,” he said. Another advantage is the salary. A first-year apprentice can expect to make between $ 16 and $ 20 an hour. A senior technician can earn anywhere from $ 30 to $ 40 an hour. “There are definitely a lot of opportunities to make a lot of money… I would probably earn a lot less doing what I went to school for.

For more information on starting a new career in a variety of high demand industries, visit Ministry of Labor employment resource website.

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