Demand for skilled installation and repair technicians in the hvacr industry far outstrips supply and the industry now needs more than 20,000 new workers each year, according to a spokesman for Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI).

Edward W. Dooley, vice president of communications and education at the national trade association headquartered in Arlington, VA, said "Contractors across the country report that their number one problem is a lack of skilled installers and repair technicians. This industry offers a superb lifetime career opportunity in a business that grows with the construction of each new home, supermarket, shopping mall, hospital and office building."

Nationwide more than 84% of new homes are built with central air conditioning or heat pumps. With 70 million units already installed, replacement and repair of aging systems provides steady business to the nation's 40,000 contractors. Installation and maintenance of millions of refrigeration units in stores plus chillers in commercial and industrial buildings add to the workload.

"With a shrinking supply of graduates from applied technology schools and retirement looming for many talented hvacr technicians, our industry is reaching out now with recruitment efforts that range from the startup of training centers to the launch of a new website that explains the benefits of a career in this industry," said Dooley.

ARI has joined with more than a dozen industry organizations to form the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Plumbing Career Education Coalition which launched the website that now garners more than 20,000 visits monthly, he said. In addition, the group distributed kits to 1,300 training programs to recruit high school students and adults seeking retraining to applied technology courses offered across the country.

"This is a rewarding career in which workers who like to be problem solvers can help improve the quality of life," said Dooley. "You see their impact everywhere: from clean rooms for making computer chips and medicines to providing comfort cooling in homes and offices while protecting them from potentially deadly weather extremes. Once you acquire the skills, you have a lifetime career that many folks with an entrepreneurial bent turn into a lucrative business."