Training professional Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) technicians since 1965. The Refrigeration School, Inc. provides HVAC & Refrigeration training. Electrical & Mechanical Technologies programs are also available.
“The skilled trades are in particular, I’m told, are increasingly hard to come by. Electricians, welders, machinists are in high demand. And too few Americans pursue these valuable paths.” -Vice President Mike Pence at a board of directors meeting for a manufacturers group in Arizona, March 2019 
The Vice President isn’t the only one to acknowledge the skilled trades shortage in Arizona. Nationwide, 80 percent of contractors report struggling to find qualified workers to fill skilled trades positions, found a 2018 survey by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). In Arizona, the problem is even worse, with 82 percent of contractors indicating difficulty in hiring craft workers with the right skills.
If you’re currently in vocational training or considering enrolling, the Grand Canyon State could be a promising place to find a job after graduation.
Get more details on how workers in three trades—welding, HVAC and electrical—are faring in the state.
How are contractors incentivizing hiring for them?
What is the impact of labor shortages on projects in the state? Find answers to these important questions below.
Toughest Trades Jobs to Fill
Compared to the year prior, contractors found it more difficult to fill the following hourly craft positions.
Skilled Trades Positions
Percentage of Contractors Struggling to Fill Them
Welders and pipefitters
Contractor Hiring Incentives
Difficulty finding qualified craft workers prompted many contractors to improve hiring incentives.
Percentage of Contractors Offering It
Increased base pay rate
Impact on Construction Projects
When contractors don’t have enough workers, issues can arise with their projects.
Skilled Trades Shortage Consequence
Percentage of Contractors Affected
Higher project costs than anticipated
Raising prices on bids or contracts
Longer completion times on contracts and bids
Labor shortages, along with unpredictability in the steel market, even caused a major project in Oro Valley to be cancelled. The expansive, planned senior living community was already 95 percent preleased when the company abruptly pulled the plug.
Why? Its subcontractors couldn’t guarantee completion schedules or top prices, due to staffing uncertainties.
Career Data for Arizona Skilled Trades Workers
“Arizona has seen remarkable population growth over the past three years, which helps drive demand for new residential and commercial construction alike. Opportunities within the construction industry for all skill levels are projected in nearly every local area around the state.’ – Doug Walls, research administrator at the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).
Construction and extraction occupations were ranked the number 2 hottest job sector in 2019 by Arizona@Work and the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). As is the case with the rest of the country, population and economic growth should drive demand for sheet metal workers, solar photovoltaic installers, electricians and other tradespeople in the coming years.
What can you expect if you choose to pursue a career in the skilled trades in Arizona? Reviewing this data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics can help inform your decision.
The BLS reports that a high school diploma or GED, formal welding training at a trade school and on-the-job training is generally necessary to become a welder. The agency notes that technical training can give applicants a competitive advantage in the job market.
Attending electrician training at a vocational school and then apprenticing for 4 or 5 years is one way to become an electrician, notes the BLS. In most states, an electrician must be licensed. In Arizona, electrical contractors must be licensed with the State Registrar of Contractors.
Technical Training for Skilled Trades Careers
The consensus among politicians, contractors and economic agencies is there is a strong need for qualified skilled trades workers in Arizona—and the rest of the country.
The key to this outlook, however, is the word “qualified.” Contractors aren’t looking for just any construction workers; they need people with technical skills to get the job done.
Where can you learn those skills? At trade schools that offer programs like: HVAC training, welding programs, electrician training and technical courses.
Equipping yourself with the right skills for trades jobs can be your first step to seizing career opportunities in Arizona’s construction industry.
Troubleshooting HVAC problems to determine what’s wrong
Discussing necessary repairs or replacements of components or even entire systems
Hold on—you’ll have to sell parts and equipment as an HVAC tech? Yes. HVAC sales can be part of the job.
If you don’t have much experience in this area, don’t worry. We have you covered when it comes to selling to the majority of the market: Baby boomers and millennials.
Check out the tips below for what to know about these customers’ purchasing preferences and this important step of any HVAC service call.
Why It’s Important to Know Your HVAC Market
A customer’s journey to purchasing a product typically starts with a problem that first arose when they first become aware of the issue. This is usually when you get the call from them about a broken-down furnace, for instance.
Solving your customers’ problems is the key to selling them HVAC equipment. But they have to want your specific solution, not another contractor’s. And this is where some sales know-how can come in handy.
What factors can generally persuade customers to purchase big ticket items like HVAC units?
Cost and value are two of the major ones. Value should be greater than price, and the unit must be within the customer’s financial reach.
Wealth and purchasing power tends to vary by demographic. As the two largest living generations, Baby Boomers and Millennials will likely account for most of your customers—and they’re on opposite ends of the wealth spectrum. This means you’ll need a different approach when selling to them.
HVAC Sales Tips for Baby Boomer and Millennial Customers
Selling HVAC to Baby Boomers
Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers are considered the wealthiest generation in history. They account for 55 percent of the country’s wealth and, in turn, purchasing power.
When you can afford to, why not be as comfortable as possible? Consider these customers when upselling premium HVAC products. Below are some suggestions for selling to them.
1. Link Product to an Aspirational Lifestyle
Baby boomers likely aren’t looking for the “lowest price” in town. Provide an excellent customer experience and a glimpse into how premium comfort could change their lives.
2. Highlight Product Benefits to Uncover Customer Desire
These customers can afford to turn their “wants” into “haves,” so show them what they should want. Discuss the benefits of premium HVAC equipment with them, whether near-silent operation, superior efficiency, next-level indoor air quality or others.
3. Offer Attractive Buying Options and ROI Details
This generation has been around for a long time; they’ve likely purchased their homes, cars and other major items through payment plans. They’re generally comfortable with the process. Make sure to let them know financing is available.
Like any experienced consumer, though, they’ll probably want to know what the return on their investment will be. Offer details about the energy savings or improved quality of life that could accompany the equipment.
Selling HVAC to Millennials
The generation born between 1981 and 1996 is often referred to as Millennials. If you’re one of them, you may already know they tend to be cost conscious.
As mentioned above, Millennials have less wealth than earlier generations due to the rising cost of a college education, student loans and other economic conditions.
Consequently, they can be thrifty: research from Blackhawk Engagement Solutions found that price is more important to 95 percent of Millennials than other factors, such as brand, store, product quality and availability.
At the same time, this generation is savvy when it comes to shopping, regularly comparing prices online to find the best buying experience and value.
This generation came of age during the digital revolution and now heavily relies on the Internet when they’re deciding on a purchase. After initially making HVAC equipment recommendations during the service call, follow up with Millennial customers online.
Emailing product information, reviews or comparisons could help persuade them to buy. After the sale, informative newsletters about common HVAC issues or system maintenance can help foster customer loyalty.
2. Show Personal and Social Value
Millennial customers often care about the value of a product both to their lives and the world. A company’s impact on society and the environment can be important to them. Make sure to highlight not only how that high efficiency heat pump could make them more comfortable and save on utility bills but also cut down on carbon emissions.
3. Be Helpful and Transparent
If they’re already going to price compare your offerings with the rest of the contractors around, then why not beat them to it? Let them know how your price compares to the rest and WHY. Make your HVAC invoice as transparent as possible.
Explain your company’s track record of superior service and customer satisfaction. Back these claims up with testimonials and customer reviews. Customers check testimonials and reviews to decide on whether or not to trust a product, service or seller.
Building Your HVAC Business
Sales are an important part of most HVAC service calls, as well as the revenue and longevity of an HVAC business. When formulating your sales strategy, keep the above considerations in mind. Customer purchasing power and preferences can differ by generation, so knowing your market is key to successful sales.
A thriving HVAC business, however, is not built on sales alone. Strong customer service skills can also help HVAC techs grow their customer base and support loyalty.
Many types of heating, cooling and refrigeration systems rely on refrigerants to transfer heat. They can be essential to how the refrigeration process works in such equipment.
But did you know refrigerants have some known enemies in an HVAC system? Any air, water or nitrogen in the unit can prevent the refrigerant from doing its job correctly and cause damage to the equipment.2 The only other substance that can exist in the system is oil.2
The problem for HVAC technicians is that these substances are always trying to sneak into equipment. Fortunately, there’s a solution: refrigerant evacuation.2
Learn what refrigerant evacuation is, when to use the process and why it’s important in this article.
What Is Refrigerant Evacuation?
Refrigerant evacuation is the removal of moisture, air and non-condensable gases from a refrigeration system. During this process, a vacuum pump is used to draw the sealed HVAC system into a vacuum. This removes air, nitrogen and moisture from the unit.
The removal of these substances occurs in two stages:
Air and vapor is sucked out of the HVAC system. This stage is typically quick and easy.
The vacuum pump is employed to decrease the pressure below the vapor pressure of water at room temperature, causing any liquid water inside the system to boil off. Without a deep vacuum and tightly sealed system, this stage can be challenging to execute successfully.4
When Is Refrigerant Evacuation Necessary?
There are a few instances when an HVAC technician may need to evacuate water, air and other unwanted substances from a system:
Before charging a new system with refrigerant.
When installing the liquid and suction lines where the ends of the tubing are open.
Contaminants in an HVAC system can prevent the equipment from working properly and result in premature failure. Following are some of the specific issues that can arise:
Refrigerants transfer heat when they change phases. They absorb heat while in the evaporator, transforming from a liquid to a vapor. When the gaseous refrigerant enters the condenser, it releases heat to the outside air, cooling the refrigerant. It then flows into the expansion valve and returns to a lower pressure, cooler liquid.
Non-condensable gases in a system take up space, limiting the refrigerant’s ability to condense. This reduces the efficiency of the unit and forces the HVAC compressor to work harder.
Water in a heat pump or air conditioner can mix with the lubricating oil in the compressor, forming an acid sludge that can corrode the component, causing it to fail. Since the compressor is one of the most expensive parts in an HVAC system, this can be a serious problem.
If moisture enters the circuit of an A/C or heating unit, it can freeze inside the control, restricting the unit from conditioning the air.8,6
What Are Some Keys to Successful Refrigerant Evacuation?
Taking certain measures can help make for a successful refrigerant evacuation:
Adhere to best practices while assembling field connections and making repairs:
Make sure the fittings and refrigerant circuit components are clean and free of debris.
Clean tubing before cutting.
Keep open pipework covered to prevent rainwater or condensation from entering.
Replace filters and driers as needed.
Purge nitrogen before and after assembling tubing.
Conduct a standing pressure test with high-pressure nitrogen.
The goal of these practices is to keep the system clean, sealed and dry.
Instead of using a manifold, connect straight from the CRTs to the pump.
Use clean oil for your pump and test it routinely.
After the target vacuum level has been reached, isolate and test to make sure there are no leaks or moisture.4
Lastly, don’t take shortcuts. They could leave you with an inefficient unit or premature system failure.6
Keeping an HVAC System Clean and Sealed
As you can see, a lot can go wrong when contaminants like air, water or nitrogen infiltrate an HVAC system. The good news is you can evacuate them from the unit and restore it to proper functioning. Just make sure to adhere to best practices for installation and repair and avoid shortcuts.
You’ve completed your HVAC program. Congratulations! That’s a huge accomplishment.
Now you’re ready to hit the job market, right? Not so fast…
Preparing for a job search after trade school can be a process in itself: from composing a resume and collecting references, to practicing for interviews, to looking for jobs. On top of all of this, you’ll need to maintain your finances and student loans until you land a position in the HVAC industry.
Fortunately, you’re not alone. Nearly every graduate, whether from trade school or college, must learn how to navigate this transition. So many, in fact, expert advice on this process abounds.
Check out the tips below for getting career ready after trade school.
7 Tips to Prepare for a Career after Trade School
You learned how to troubleshoot basic HVAC problems and repair air conditioners and furnaces in refrigeration school, which is great because employers generally prefer applicants with formal training. But landing a job as an HVAC technician can take more than technical know-how.
“Interviewers know that technical skills can be taught but personality traits are much more difficult to change,” explained Alex Freund, a career coach located in New Jersey.
Learn more about how to impress employers with your practical and soft skills, as well as how to handle the time in between vocational school and career.
Tip 1: Set a Realistic Time Frame to Find a Job
Sure, you may have picked up part-time jobs while in trade school easily and quickly. But getting a job in a professional industry after graduation may take longer.
On average, it takes college graduates six months to find a job, depending on their field. With jobs for HVAC techs expected to be added at a rate nearly twice as fast as the national average (15 percent vs. 7 percent) through 2026, it may not take as long for you.
Still, it’s important to be prepared to look for a while.
Tip 2: Create a Budget and Manage Student Loans
How will you manage your bills until you find a job as an HVAC tech? A budget.
Include all of your expenses: phone bill, rent, utilities, car payment and groceries. Don’t forget about a nice shirt for job interviews too.
Most student loans have a six-month grace period before you have to start making payments but check to make sure. This is also a good time to get to know your loan servicer. Staying in communication with them can help ensure you’re not enrolled in a repayment plan that doesn’t work for you.
Tip 3: Take Internships and Part-Time Work
Having an income while looking for a position in the HVAC industry can help with bills. Plus, it shows the HVAC companies you interview with that you’re employable—that you have those soft skills mentioned earlier to show up on time and work well with others. You generally want to avoid large employment gaps on your resume, too.
Sometimes paid, internships can be a great way to solve the post-graduation conundrum: you have the right education for the job but no relevant work experience yet. Even better? Internships can lead to jobs within the HVAC company.
“For many employers, the internship is an extended interview,” said Ethel Badawi, a career development specialist.
Speaking of resumes, you’re going to need one. Here’s what some industry insiders say they’re looking for in a skilled trades resume:
Relevant work experience and skill set.
Correct industry terminology (basically, you know what you’re talking about).
Not too long. Limit yourself to two pages.
Training, certificates, past projects and background information.
Proper grammar and spelling.
Clear and concise.
Work experience listed in chronological order.
While cover letters are the standard for office-based careers, you may be able to get by without one in the skilled trades.
References, however, can be important. Ask former instructors if you don’t have many past employers to provide them.
Tip 5: Find Skilled Trades Job Boards
Online jobs boards are among the top sources companies use to recruit new hires. Niche job boards are smaller and tailored to a specific industry. Recruiters often use these to improve the chances that qualified candidates apply to their job ads.
Finding job boards for HVAC or skilled trades in general may help save time for job seekers because they don’t have to weed through as many unrelated jobs. For example, U.S. Trades LLC is a job board for craftsmen and women in the electrical and mechanical trades.
Doing some research to find boards specific to HVAC or the trade you’re working in can be a good idea.
Tip 6: Practice Interviewing for Jobs
One common interview mistake is to focus only on what you want to get out of the company, not what you could bring to it.
“The job search process is all about the ‘buyer’ or the hiring team at a company. Everything you do and say should focus on their job description, their company values and know what the business does,” explained Dana Manciagli, a job search coach.
When that interview day finally comes, make sure to follow up afterward to show your interest in the position.
Tip 7: Be Willing to Compromise
Since you lack experience, the first position you land may not be your dream job—it often isn’t. But you need to gain work experience, so be willing to compromise. You have years ahead of you to work your way into the position you want, but right now, you need to start working.
Getting Your Start in the Skilled Trades
The time between trade school and career can be as exciting as it is stressful. Preparing yourself for the process and managing expectations can help minimize anxiety and improve your chances of landing a job in the field.
“The issue of recruiting the next generation into the skilled trades is one of the biggest challenges facing our industry today.” -Palmer Schoening, vice president of government affairs for the Heating, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI).
But landing a job after graduation from HVAC/R training could still be a process, with many different steps to account for:
Composing a resume
Practicing for interviews
Finding open positions near you to apply to
Contractors Struggle to Find Qualified HVAC Technicians
How severe is the skilled HVAC technician shortage? Finding new talent has been described as a “treasure hunt.”
The Demand for Skilled HVAC Workers Is Rising
Why? Increasing demand for skilled technicians and diminishing supplies of them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates HVAC jobs should be added at a rate of 15 percent through 2026—twice as fast as the national average for all occupations.
In the coming years, HVAC techs will be needed in the residential and commercial building sector for jobs like working on high-tech, energy efficient climate-control systems, as well as repairing and replacing older units. And not just any HVAC techs. Employers usually prefer those with vocational training, given the increasing complexity of the equipment.
The Supply of Qualified Techs Is Diminishing
At the same time, the HVAC industry is largely comprised of Baby Boomers. They’re retiring, and younger workers aren’t replacing them in large enough numbers. It’s one reason 62 percent of firms are struggling to fill important skilled trades positions, according to a report by global staffing firm Adecco.
This leaves those with the right technical skills in a good position to seize opportunities in the HVAC industry; they just have to know where to look for them.
Where HVAC Contractors Are Recruiting Techs
“Finding employees with experience is almost an impossibility, even with $5,000 sign-on bonuses available.” –Scott Merritt, owner of Fire & Ice Heating & Air Conditioning, Columbus, Ohio
So where exactly are contractors finding skilled HVAC technicians?
HVAC Contractor Recruiting Tactics
Online job websites:
Poaching from other HVAC contractors:
HVAC equipment supply houses (Cork boards)
Using their technicians to scout recruits during training classes
Hiring in-house recruiters
Recruiting bonuses for in-house technicians
Local departments of veterans affairs:
Contractor company websites
How HVAC Contractors Are Attracting and Keeping Qualified Technicians
“Young people today want and need future opportunity, a good salary, benefits, and to feel as if they are valued.” -Paul Ainsworth, owner of M.L. Building Technologies in Millsboro, Delaware
When HVAC technicians with the rights skills are hard to find, many contractors up the ante to attract and keep workers. In addition to compensation, some contractors are investing in their technicians’ professional development, viewing them as assets to the company.
HVAC Technician Hiring Incentives
Listening to employee concerns and needs
Helping technicians achieve career goals
Productivity pay incentives
Post-HVAC school on-the-job training in company practices
Opportunities to learn innovative industry practices
Continuing education and paid professional development activities
Sending technicians to industry events
Hiring employee recruitment and retention experts
Employee appreciation events:
Tips for Landing HVAC Jobs
Just because there is a strong demand for qualified HVAC technicians, doesn’t mean contractors aren’t selective about who they hire. Many contractors adhere to the old credo, “hire slow; fire fast.”
They’re paying attention to resumes, work experience, attitude and character. Some screen and test applicants on their skills. They want to make sure they’ve found the right candidate before investing in him or her.
What can you do to better appeal to such contractors? Below are just a few tips. You can always visit our Career Services department for more help.
After graduation from your HVAC program, finding a job is often the next step—or several. From searching for jobs to applying and interviewing for them, the more informed you are about how to optimize each step, the smoother the process could go.
And don’t forget to network while in school and during your job search. Find out why HVAC/R trade associations and attending conferences is a great way to meet others in the industry, including potential employers.
In your HVAC classes, you likely practice on the same equipment in the same lab setting every day, right?
When you graduate from school, that could change. If you get a job as an HVAC technician in the residential sector, you could be paying service calls to people’s homes. This could have you working on a variety of types of equipment in different environments.
Many homeowners have cats, dogs or other pets, which can wreak havoc on an HVAC system. It could be your job to not only clean and repair their equipment but also recommend maintenance to improve system performance. You’ll want to factor in the extra equipment stressors that accompany pets in a home when doing so.
Pets Can Make an HVAC System Work Overtime
When they shed, fur, hair or dander can make its way into the home’s ventilation system, clogging the components. This can force an air conditioner or furnace to work harder to condition and circulate the air. The result could be a decrease in energy efficiency, lifespan of parts or the entire unit and indoor air quality.
How can you tell if pets in the home may be contributing to the above problems?
Frequent Equipment Failures
Filters and vents could be clogged.
10 to 20 percent of the global population experiences allergies to cats and dogs. Compromised indoor air quality from pet hair or dander can result in:
Eye, nose or throat irritation
HVAC Maintenance Tips for Pet Owners
If your pet-owning customers are complaining about the above issues, it may be time to make some customized maintenance recommendations.
Tip 1: Groom Pets Regularly
Pet hair can quickly accumulate on the surface of HVAC air filters and clog air ducts. One of the easiest ways homeowners can prevent this is to regularly groom their pets. Suggest routine baths, brushing and trimming.
Tip 2: Vacuum Vents
Recommend that your customers use the hose mode on their vacuum cleaners to remove pet dander and hair from air vents, as well as any other dust or debris.
Tip 3: Increase Filter Maintenance
Possibly one of the best DIY-HVAC maintenance tips you can give your customers is to clean their air filters. In the case of homes with pets, increasing cleaning can reduce allergy symptoms from poor indoor air quality and prevent premature component malfunctions. Keeping air conditioner filters clean can reduce energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.
How often should pet owners clean or change their filters? Whereas homeowners without pets could go as long as 90 days, those with critters should change their filters every month.
Tip 4: Install an Air Purification System
The Environmental Protection Agency indicates that reducing or removing the source of pollutants and ventilating the home with clean outdoor air are two of the most effective ways to improve indoor air quality. But suggesting that customers get rid of their pets would be out of the question.
Fortunately, there may be a pet-friendly alternative. An air purification system can be an effective supplement to source control (removing cats or dogs from the home) and ventilation, according to the EPA.
Tip 5: Protect HVAC Equipment from Pets
Cats and dogs may play with or chew on exposed wires or parts, potentially endangering themselves and their owners’ equipment. Advise customers to keep HVAC system parts and wires out of reach of their furry friends.
Tip 6: Call in HVAC Pros to Clean and Seal Ducts
While homeowners can do many things on their own to minimize the stress their pets cause to their HVAC systems, sometimes they should call in a professional HVAC technician, particularly for cleaning and sealing air ducts.
Leaks or cracks in the ductwork can be entry points for pet dander. Once inside, that dander and other dirt particles can become trapped, creating excellent conditions for bacteria and mold growth. As the air circulates through the ducts, it carries dander, bacteria and mold to the rest of the house, compromising indoor air quality. That’s why it’s especially important to clean and seal ducts in homes with pets.
HVAC Maintenance for Happy Customers
Suggesting the above tips to your customers with pets can help prevent unnecessary break downs, prolong the life of the equipment and improve the quality of indoor air. This could help them save money and prevent the discomfort of indoor pollutants.
These customized maintenance recommendations are just one way to promote customer satisfaction. Building trust is also key to keeping customers happy.
To give you insight into the different companies that recruit RSI graduates, we have created these Employer Connection interviews. This month we spoke with Tricia Schmidt, Recruiter with TDIndustries in Tempe, Arizona.
Thanks for your time, Tricia. Before we start, please tell us a little about you.
I started with TDIndustries (TD) in March 2017. I was new to the construction industry, having retired after 30 years in commercial aviation. Having to reinvent myself, I obtained a certification in HR and applied for this opportunity. Many aspects of my previous career included HR, so that’s what led me to continue in this direction with my certification.
Please give us a brief overview of TDIndustries.
We were founded in 1946 in Dallas, TX, as a family air conditioning company. We’ve grown into an employee-owned commercial mechanical construction and facilities subcontractor with 2,600 Partners (what TD calls employees). We have six locations in Texas and we started in Arizona in 2003 with the Cardinals stadium. We performed the mechanical construction, including HVAC and plumbing. This amazing, exciting project allowed us to create our footprint in the Valley. We have grown to 260 Partners in Phoenix.
What services do you offer in Arizona?
We provide HVAC, refrigeration, plumbing, piping, and general maintenance services across Arizona. We win bids through reputation and relationships; we don’t advertise. We have work slated out through 2021 and beyond, which is why we have the continual need to bring new Partners onboard. We have three business units here in Phoenix:
1) New Construction, which is ground-up employing all three trades – sheet metal, plumbing and piping.
2) Special Projects, which is expansions and improvements to existing buildings, predominantly data centers and hospitals.
3) On the Service side, we service the systems we install and other customers and their planned maintenance needs.
How long has the relationship with RSI been in place, and what graduates are you looking for?
Since 2015. We are interested in HVAC/R grads to come on as service technicians to support our service department. However, with the introduction of the Welding school within RSI, we also hire pipefitter and welders to work on the new construction/special projects side of the business.
How do you meet RSI graduates?
My first TD event was attending an RSI career fair! That’s our opportunity to meet the students and share our company with them. I attend the quarterly career fairs without fail; I have service managers join me, as they are technical specialists. I also participate on both RSI Advisory Boards.
Do you attend career fairs even if you’re not hiring at that time?
My first year we weren’t hiring, we were stable with our needs. However, I still attended each RSI career fair as we wanted students to be aware of us as a preferred employer for the future. We like students to be aware of our culture, our benefits, and the way we work in case we partner in the future.
You mention partner, rather than employee?
When I say partner, we are unique. We are 100% employee-owned. All partners own a portion of the company if we take the opportunity to be part of the employee stock option program (ESOP). That’s in addition to the 401(k) program, all exciting pieces of the total compensation at TD.
How many RSI grads have your brought on?
We have recruited eight HVAC/R grads, plus a welder who started this past Monday. Our welding graduate is a female veteran, and we’re really excited about her joining us because TD is very committed to diversity.
What experience level do you hire?
All levels. A lot of résumés are similar. However, if you come from RSI with existing experience, that sets you apart! An RSI graduate with prior experience can often come on as a level one technician, as opposed to coming on as an apprentice. There are also times when we hire more experienced level three or level four techs. Those are positions where we need more years of experience. By planting the seeds early and by having the connection to RSI, the Career Services team can reach out to their experienced alumni with those opportunities as they arise.
Share a recent hire with us.
We just had an entry level business development manager (BDM) position become open in service. This role is all about initiating service agreements with companies and growing our business. I reconnected with an RSI student who graduated at the top of his class. When I met with him at a career fair some months earlier, he had expressed how excited he was about the sales side of the business. His father is an entrepreneur, so he grew up with that background.
He graduated RSI in January 2019 and was working with another company. However, I remembered our conversation and reached out with this opportunity. He was terribly excited. He applied and started with us this month. His income has grown exponentially because of the position he is in. He is currently in training, and I know he is going to be amazing at it.
What makes RSI graduates stand out when you are looking to recruit?
The instructors do a really good job developing their students. RSI is committed to molding great candidates, meaning it’s not just about your skill set; it’s the way you present yourself, including résumé and soft skills, the total package. RSI students consistently interview and present well. I’ll be honest, we are looking for someone who is passionate, hungry for the next step in their career, excited that they’ve graduated. We don’t always have entry-level positions, but when we do, I always know who I will contact at RSI based on that excitement they exhibit when I meet them.
What kind of qualities do you notice in the RSI graduates who go to work for you?
They are professional; they are conscientious of the way they present themselves to our customers. Skill set-wise, they have a solid foundation for us to build on.
Does the hands-on practice that students get at RSI give them an advantage?
Definitely. It is preferred and essential. It gives them confidence. It helps them validate their skill set. Welders, for example, know that if they have successfully completed a 6G weld, that confidence helps them obtain certification with us.
Does TDIndustries have a formal training program?
I’ll speak to the HVAC technician part of it. Day one is orientation, a general introduction to the company and benefits. They then have a day and a half of safety and a driving test. Then there is the shadowing, where they are introduced to how TD does what we do. Eventually, they will have their own vehicle. The timeline for that shadowing process is based on how quickly the candidate picks things up. It could be two months to two years. We also offer continual training with additional certifications and new technology training. All apprentices receive NCCER Journeyman certification through Arizona Builders Alliance (ABA).
Do you have graduates who have stayed at your company and moved up through the ranks?
We do. Greg is our dispatcher, and Donny is a facilities technician responsible for overall customer satisfaction with HVAC/plumbing system operation at a condominium complex. We also have several other techs who started at apprentice level. They are now primary technicians responsible for substantial service accounts.
What advice do you have for students to be successful at RSI, and to have a chance of getting hired on at a company like TDIndustries?
There is so much opportunity out there right now. The folks choosing RSI have chosen an excellent career path to follow. It’s fantastic because construction in Arizona is huge right now. The skill set you’re learning is needed and will continue to be needed. We strive to be a key influencer in the skilled trades area, and we love partnering with RSI.
We appreciate those who choose to invest in themselves, so make the most of your education, obtain as much hands-on training as you can, and gain as much understanding as you can. Connect with your instructors. Go to the career fairs and connect with us, go to interviews and get that experience. You need the technical knowledge to be able to converse about it, but you also need to be hungry, energetic and excited.
Take pride in your work and be humble. Dependability is a huge factor. Show up to work early, be prepared, and be willing to continue to learn and progress. When it comes to getting onboard, TD is definitely a career destination. We are not just a job. We are a way of life. We want our employees to ultimately retire with us, to contribute to our culture. That’s what we strive for.
Where can students or graduates go to learn more?
Come see us at the next RSI career fair, or go to our website and create a profile on our website. Let us know who you are and what your interests are, whether it’s service on the HVAC/Refrigeration side or welding on the construction side. Just reach out and start the relationship. You can also search for open positions on our website. We are currently hiring! Even if we are not hiring for a position you may be seeking, at the very minimum, create a profile so automated alerts can be sent to you and we can reach out!
Danny, 24, was born in California, but was raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He completed the RSI Electro-Mechanical Technologies (EMT) program in March 2019, and walked the stage at graduation in April.
Thanks for your time, Danny. What did you do after high school?
I went straight to community college. I was a football player and played for Glendale Community College until I got into a bad accident. After that, I gave up school and just started working. I worked fast food jobs, call center jobs, all types of jobs, for two or three years while living with my mother.
Why did you decide to go back to school?
I’d wanted to go back to school since I left college a few years before. I always knew I wanted to keep learning. One day I sat down with my significant other Tanay; she pretty much told me that I needed to do something with my life, get a career so I could progress. So I got to thinking, what do people need?
How did you decide on RSI and an HVAC career?
I have a friend who had told me about RSI and the EMT program, and living in town I’d seen billboards for the school. So I thought about what Tanay had said, what my friend had said, and I came to the realization that I live in Arizona where everybody needs air conditioning. So I called up my friend and said let’s go check out RSI and see what it’s all about.
Did you and your friend enroll together?
That was the plan. The idea was for us to start a business together and start making some money. Because I’d been to community college, I already knew about Financial Aid, so mine was done within a day. But my friend’s application had a few complications, which he never took care of. I got started in late June without him. He was going to follow me but just never got to it. So I really started to get into the program, meeting classmates, making friends. There were people in my class with more experience who knew what they were doing. They helped me and that made it a little easier for me.
Did you have any HVAC or electrical experience?
When I started this, I didn’t know a thing about HVAC! But my mom raised me not to be a quitter, to strive at everything I do, and finish, so that’s what I did and here we are today.
No HVAC experience, but were you handy? Could you turn a wrench?
I was. My uncle, who fought in the Vietnam war, was a handyman when I was growing up, kind of a Bob the Builder guy! So I helped him add rooms to my grandmother’s and my great-grandmother’s houses. He used to have me help him around the houses and I was familiar with swamp coolers. Plus, as a kid, I used to play around with electrical, like twisting speaker wires together. How can I get six speakers on one stereo? So I knew a little bit.
What was your favorite part of attending RSI?
I would say the hands-on work and actually being able to interact with people who had been in the field, gaining knowledge from them. I used to go to Circle K and wonder, “how do they make ice?” I eventually started learning about chillers later in the program, and that was a pretty good time. I had friends who helped me out, and the instructors were pretty great. But the hands-on was the fun part.
You graduated a month ago. Where are you working?
I work for a private company called Armer Air. I’m his first hire. They are based in Ahwatukee where I stay, and 95% of our work is here. Matt is the most honest person I’ve run into in this industry. He looks out for his customers, and builds relationships with them. I told him, “This is perfect. I feel like God sent me towards you.”
Congratulations – how did you get the job?
I was working for Honeywell as a commercial package handler at the time; that was the job I had through school. I was applying to all kinds of HVAC jobs on Indeed.com. Then a friend told me about Ahwatukee 411, a Facebook group. So I posted that I had just graduated from RSI, and I was trying to get into the field. I had all these people message me, but I called Armer Air back and it just seemed to fit.
So what are you doing for them? Commercial, residential?
It varies. When I first started, we replaced a compressor on a commercial A/C unit, but we do mostly residential maintenance. Today I was doing commercial swamp coolers.
When did you start?
It was about two or three weeks ago, right after graduation.
Are you working with the boss every day, or does he leave you to it yet?
It depends on the job. Today he left me by myself to do the swamp coolers; I had to replace bearings, a motor and some belts. Hopefully, in two to three months, I’ll be getting my own van.
Are you happy with the money?
They offered me more than what anyone else offered to start with. But I won’t really know how happy I am until I get my first full check. My priority is to pay bills, but I do plan on repairing my vehicle and taking my girlfriend on a trip. If it wasn’t for Tanay, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Where do you see your career taking you ultimately?
It’s always been my goal to own my own business. I plan on going back to school within a couple of years to finish my associate’s degree in business. I want to start building my empire!
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
The fact that I have something to fall back on. That I can tell my friends I have a career now, not just a job. I have a career that I can progress in, and I can be my own boss one day.
Did you make some connections at RSI?
I’m in a group chat with a few friends from school. Even though we may not talk all the time, every couple of weeks I message everybody and stay in touch. You never know when you’re going to need each other—maybe questions while out on a job, or new opportunities that come up.
What advice do you have for new students just starting out at RSI?
Pay very close attention to what you are learning and don’t ever give up. It may get hard, but it’s only the beginning. Attendance is important. I’ll be honest, my attendance wasn’t perfect. It was hard; I was going to school in the morning and working full-time afternoons and nights. I was catching a bus, only getting three to four hours sleep. But if I overslept because I was sleep deprived, if I was going to be late, I always made sure I went to school. My attendance issue was tardiness, not absence. I had to work extra hard to pass the class at times. That’s where my friends helped, by catching me up. The instructors were sympathetic to my situation and also tried to help me out, but missing school did make it harder.
If you’re an RSI graduate and would like to share your success story and be an inspiration to others, please email Social@StrataTech.com to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), and program.
A major deadline in the HVAC industry is swiftly approaching. New sources of one of the most commonly used refrigerants in the industry, R-22, will no longer be available starting on January 1, 2020.
Chances are, by the time you graduate from your HVAC/R training program and are working in the field, you could have to help your customers navigate the ban on production and importation of R-22.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming R-22 phaseout.
R-22 Phaseout: Recap Past to Present
R-22 is one type of HCFC, a class of refrigerants scientists have found destroys the ozone layer, the stratospheric shield that protects the Earth from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation. CFCs and halons are also harmful to the ozone layer. HFCs have been found to contribute to global warming.
Under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for protecting the stratospheric ozone layer. The agency manages the phaseout of ozone-depleting substances, such as HCFCs, including R-22.
Attempts by the EPA to ban refrigerants contributing to global warming were recently overturned by a Federal Court.  The agency recommends refrigerant substitutes for R-22 under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program.
R-22 Phaseout Timeline
EPA Phaseout Schedule
Import, production and use of R-22 banned, except for servicing existing equipment.
How HVAC Technicians Can Prepare Customers for the R-22 Phaseout
What’s clear from the chart above is that restrictions on R-22 since 2010 have resulted in decreased supplies and significant price volatility. Keep this in mind as you review the options HVAC techs have for handling the R-22 phaseout below.
Continue to Use R-22
In the commercial and residential sector, R-22 is used in most air conditioning equipment produced before 2010. This means a lot of your customers may still rely on the refrigerant. They can continue to use R-22, but it may be more expensive because only previously-produced or reclaimed quantities will be available.
Retrofit HVAC System
Retrofitting an older air conditioner to take R-22 replacements is another option for some customers. R-22 alternative refrigerant blends acceptable for retrofitted equipment include:
After about 15 years of use, an HVAC system is more prone to leaks or component failures. Customers with older equipment are probably due for an HVAC upgrade.
Not only will servicing newer equipment eliminate the R-22 phaseout issue, but it may also promote energy efficiency and reduce fire hazards. Replacing an older heating or cooling unit with Energy Star-qualified equipment, for example, can reduce an annual utility bill by more than $115.
Stay Current With HVAC Industry Regulations
The R-22 phaseout highlights the regulatory side of working in the HVAC industry. Just as the equipment frequently becomes more complex, the laws governing how techs do their job continually changes.
It’s important for anyone working in this field, especially those handling refrigerants, to stay current with the latest regulations.
Riley, age 46 from a small rural town in West Virginia, graduated from the Refrigeration Technologies program in October 2018. Riley moved to Phoenix about 12 years ago.
Thanks for your time, Riley. Was this a career change for you?
A complete change. I have a restaurant and customer service background. The lack of income and benefits made me decide to make a change. I was in my mid 40s with no career. I first signed up to community college to become a dental hygienist, but a life situation happened which made me pause that.
What made you choose the HVAC/R path?
I have a great friend who is very mechanically inclined. He always frustrated me because he seems to know everything! He says the only reason he knows so much is because he’s made a ton of mistakes, done a ton of research, and seen a lot more than I have. But being around him made me realize that I pick up mechanical stuff pretty well. I’m fascinated by little secrets and tricks to things. Once you discover those tricks and have the proper tools, what seems impossible is pretty easy. It’s like magic almost and it’s fun.
Why refrigeration and not another mechanical career?
With refrigeration, although there’s a variety of equipment to work on—ice machines, giant industrial chillers, A/C units—you’re still using the same basic four principles. These machines are typically well designed. Plus, the pay can be fantastic! It was also a quick journey from beginning to graduation.
Why did you choose RSI?
I don’t remember. I just know that when I was ready to get some education, RSI was on my list. I did my research. I got a lot of bang for my buck, the tuition was quite reasonable and it’s a short program.
What was your favorite part of school?
Every day, from day one, we talked about refrigeration, electricity and the skills I’d need, and nothing else. We didn’t talk about Shakespeare. In college you often have to take pre-requisite courses. It takes a long time to get to the career skills you need, but not here. My favorite classes were when we were troubleshooting, the hands-on applications. I also liked that the teachers had been in the industry; I could ask for real-world examples because they’d been on the job for years.
Were career services helpful in getting you your job?
Absolutely. We had a career fair on campus during my last days of school. I was well prepared. I brought my résumé and talked to as many people as I could, but I didn’t find the match I wanted. Shortly after, Rick White [Director of Career Services] called to say he had a great opportunity. I’m so fortunate that the career fair didn’t pan out because I got this job.
Where are you working?
I started at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix as an overnight HVAC technician last week. It’s great pay, I’m going to one property every day and working with people who know all the equipment in the facility. It has worked out really well. I have a steep learning curve, but there’s consistency. We know our ice machines, chillers and units. We know how things are going to act, so when things misbehave, we have a baseline. I’m shadowing someone for the first three weeks, but then my shift will be 10 pm to 8 am. It is a challenge every day, but when I look back, I’m sure it will seem pretty easy once I get it.
The nightshift will take some adjusting to.
A little, but I’ll take it. I won’t have homeowners breathing down my neck because it’s boiling hot. I could be on the roof at 3 am or in the chiller. Either way, I can take a step back and really think things through.
Have you had your first pay check yet? Was that exciting?
I have not, but last night I dreamed it was fantastic. The pay is great, and they provide tools and uniforms. I will have fantastic benefits after 90 days: health, dental, vision. There’s a cafeteria where they feed us well—Hyatt resort food. There are travel benefits, too; I can stay at any Hyatt for free if they have availability.
You sound excited by this new career.
This is going to be life-changing for me. I have enjoyed not being well-off because I learned so much: how to scrimp and save, how to fix things. But when you’re well-off, you don’t have to fix things, you just buy new. Now, at 46, I’m ready to be well-off. I will live frugally, but successfully.
Did you make some lasting connections at RSI?
Yes, we were a band of brothers and sisters. We helped each other and explained things to each other. Not everybody hears the same thing when the instructor speaks. Sometimes when someone else explains things, it just clicks. Talking with my friends helped a lot. I had friendly competition with them, mostly in my mind, because I wanted to be the top tech. It was all helpful to keep me on my toes. I talk with them about once a week to see how they’re doing and how their jobs are going.
What do you enjoy most about your new trade?
First and foremost that it is a trade, I have a career now. I have options. If this job doesn’t work out, although I’m sure it will, there are four other opportunities available tomorrow. I’m proud that I do something that people say “Oh, wow” when they learn what I do. What’s behind that cold air is a mystery to most people. It’s nice to have skills that not many people have, and it’s nice to be a ‘go-to’ guy because I’ve got those skills. That’s a great feeling.
What’s your career plan?
One of the things I’m grateful for about this job is that lots of people I talk to have been with Hyatt for at least eight years, many over 20 years. It’s hard to find a company these days where people don’t job hop all the time. I’m comfortable with what they are paying me now, but I can only assume that in five or ten years my salary will have increased. I don’t see any reason why I’d want to leave Hyatt.
What advice do you have for new students just starting out?
I’m not smarter than anybody else. I’m not amazingly talented at this stuff, but they say this to you when you start at the school: do your best to show up every day and be present in class. I showed up a minimum of 30 minutes early each day. I wasn’t sitting there going over notes, I was just getting settled, getting prepared, getting in to the mode to be there mentally. I think my grades and my attendance record are what made Rick White think of me when he was talking to Hyatt.
If you’re an RSI graduate and would like to share your success story and be an inspiration to others, please email Social@StrataTech.com to be considered for a Graduate Connection interview. Please include details such as your graduation date (month/year), and program.