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AHR 2019: How HVAC Companies are Attracting the Next Generation

Jan. 16, 2019

From HVAC graduate training to engaging young people with advanced technology and applications, companies exhibiting at AHR 2019 tell us what they’re doing to attract the next generation to the HVAC workforce.

One of the major challenges faced today in the facilities management industry is the looming number of Baby Boomers set to retire soon. We’ve written about it before – but the challenge is particularly daunting for the HVAC industry, which is poised to lose more employees to retirement than are in the pipeline for recruitment.

As AHR 2019 continues in Atlanta, conversations abound about how to attract the next generation to the workforce. Air-conditioning manufacturer Daikin Applied took the movement a step further by hosting an event exclusively for engineering and technical trade students during the show to foster interest in HVAC professions.

(Photo: Daikin Applied hosted an event exclusively for engineering and technical trade students during AHR Expo 2019. Credit: Daikin)

An HVAC Event for the Next Generation

“How do we meet students where they are as opposed to expecting them to come to us?” says Susan Kaufman, vice president of marketing for Daikin Applied.

The company reached out to a number of universities and their engineering chapters and invited students to join their recruiting program at AHR.


Listen to this related podcast.

BUILDINGS’ Sarah Kloepple speaks with Susan Kaufman from Daikin Applied about their Next Generation Event they hosted at AHR Expo 2019 in Atlanta.

The event, created exclusively for engineering and technical trade students during the show, helps to foster interest in HVAC professions.

Read the full transcript at the bottom of this article.

The program involved a presentation that highlighted the forces that are making the HVAC industry a dynamic place to work; afterward, students were given tours of Daikin Applied’s booth and product portfolios on which that they could potentially work – essentially, an understanding of what it could be like to work for the company.

“I was impressed with the students’ questions. It shows that they’re definitely paying attention,” Kaufman says. “They’re really dialed in… You could tell from the kinds of questions they asked. They were really thoughtful – not just about our industry but about specific career pathing.”

What Other HVAC Companies Are Saying

Emerging technologies and innovations are already creating more interesting opportunities for new and recent graduates – from cloud-based controls to building automation. Some companies have training programs in place to recruit students as soon as they graduate.


“We hire between 30 and 50 people straight out of school [every year]. Concerned? No. Interested? Yes.” - Manlio Valdes

HVAC manufacturer Trane has such a program that encompasses sales, engineering, HVAC systems design and application.

Vice president of product management and marketing Manlio Valdes says the company is not worried about recruiting enough young professionals. Through the training program, he says, “We hire between 30 and 50 people straight out of school [every year]. Concerned? No. Interested? Yes.”

Monica McMahen, director of marketing for Optigo, a building network solutions company, says her company also isn’t concerned – though she acknowledges that retiring vs. hiring is an industry issue.

[On topic: Attract Millennials and Gen Z to Facilities Management]

“It’s a massive problem,” she says. “It’s definitely a topic people are talking about.” She adds that recent engineering graduates are often lured to companies like Google or Amazon, and that mentoring from the Baby Boomer generation could be one solution to turn their attention to HVAC.

Corrie Neukirchner, marketing director for REHAUs Window Solutions & Building Solutions division, says the company aims to educate the next generation of engineers with online resources and lunch-and-learns. “As a trend, I would say generally, they’re younger, they’re open to more new ideas.”

(Photo: Daikin Applied hosted an event exclusively for engineering and technical trade students during AHR Expo 2019. Credit: Daikin)

Mike East, an account manager for REHAU, adds, “They want to know more about doing things in different ways. New technologies and newer applications are certainly something that attracts them.”

Although industry insiders agree that the imbalance between HVAC retirees and new recruits is a critical problem, they remain optimistic.

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At AHR 2019, LG Electronics’ air-conditioning division introduced its new and improved variable refrigerant flow system, the Multi V 5, with advanced smart load controls. Kevin McNamara, senior vice president and general manager, says this proves that “it’s an exciting time to be in the industry.”

More AHR Expo Coverage:

About the Author

Sarah Kloepple | Associate Editor

Sarah joined the BUILDINGS team as an associate editor in August 2018. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, where her focus was magazine writing. She's written and edited for numerous publications in her hometown of St. Louis.

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