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How to reform America's school system to repopulate the future workers we need.

Lance Member Posts: 257
I have ideas what are yours? Public educators refused my help. Vocational training disappeeared, morality training disappeared, skill training lacks, student guidence failed, bascially a severe shortage of qualified apprentices is growing.
The average age in our businesses is approaching 58-64 years of age. Who will wake up the school unions, administrators. When will we as taxpayers hold our education system accountable for results we need?


  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,143
    Hi Lance, How about giving us some of your ideas? This is a topic I'm interested in and we need a thoughtful discussion on it. I imagine your sharing some ideas will grease the skids!

    Yours, Larry
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 20,836
    Actually I am seeing a re-bound in trade offerings and trainings. Students and educators are realizing there is opportunity and $$ in the trades. Thanks to Mike Rowe and others that have a big megaphone to get the word out.
    It will take some time to get back to the VoTech offerings that were available back in the 60 & 70's. Keep in mind all the blue color jobs are crying for employees. A willing tradesperson should be able to name their price these days.

    Savvy contractors are working with high schools to offer after school training and job placement when they graduate. Sign on bonus, moving expensive, other incentives that the universities may not offer unless you are a top level "ball player :)
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 1,626
    I am also seeing a rebound.
    Lately there have been many new and younger faces on the job sight. The ages are between 25 and 35 years old on the current sight I am on.

    I have spoke with a few Voc. Ed. instructors. They are also helping with job placement and are offering references.

    I have asked some of these new faces what made them look for a job like this and the word is , is that they can get hired.
    Seems that things might be changing. Time will tell.

  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,773
    We've got a lot of new faces, but very few are under about 40. Even fewer are mechanically inclined, unfortunately. They show up for the money, but don't take the initiative to learn the trade. Then there's always that one bad apple on the site that ruins the whole basket. I'm just finishing up a school addition that was bid for 4 guys and 5 months. I had several apprentices and two journeyman come out but nobody could show up every day, on time, and do their job. 95% of the job was done by me alone. We employ roughly 30 pipefitters at any given time but only 6 of us have been there longer than 6 months- good help is mighty tough to find around here. I'd be super interested to hear some ideas that may assist in the issue
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 14,593
    I know the plumbers/pipefitters union is aggressively seeking out recruits from the military in their "helmets to hardhats" program.

    Other than that we all grew up working on bicycles-lawnmowers-cars.

    Unfortunately video games will not work to teach mechanical ability. And the jr high and high schools have no shop programs in most locations.

    Too much negative talk about plumbers & boiler rooms has hurt the industry.

    But some day, the pendulum will swing back
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,806
    edited August 2019
    @EBEBRATT-Ed “Negative talk about boiler rooms”? Geez. That’s a shame. When I think about my entire career in those rooms, it’s with a lot of pride, gratitude, and sense of accomplishment.
    Steve Minnich
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 14,593
    @Steve Minnich,

    I agree with you I have spent most of my life in boiler rooms. Just seems that a lot of people look down on Plumbers/Pipefitters with all the butt crack jokes etc.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 20,836
    A local plumber is advertising on nightly TV around here, "If you see any crack, you get your money back"
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,479
    hot_rod said:

    A local plumber is advertising on nightly TV around here, "If you see any crack, you get your money back"

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,397
    The industry is taking care of itself with pay scales in the 6 figure range!
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,497
    This needs to start at the High school level if not earlier.

    Part of the solution is to change the mindset. Going into the trades should be intentional and done with pride. It is presently, too often, the path that kids who have failed at other things fall into.

    The system also needs to change the way they teach. I sat at a teacher conference a little while back and found myself staring at a fairly long formula on the board. It was a mathematically correct way to determine complimentary angles that 50% of the kids did not understand and 99% will never remember. I am sure that kids that will be working for NASA will need to learn math that way, the average kid would be better off remembering that the 2 angles need to add up to 90 so A=90-B.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Kybeans403
    Kybeans403 Member Posts: 56
    I entered the HVAC trade backwards after completing a 4 year Bachelor's program in management in Rhode Island. Finished in 2007, had 1 job after school, laid off in 2009 and been in this business ever since. Started in dispatch, learning customer service, moved up to purchasing and running the warehouse, then out in the field supervising installations, then actually doing installations then into my current position as a senior level service technician with the knowledge and ability after training, (ACCA duct, manual J, writesoft etc) to provide quotes for new installations and replacement work if I happen to shut down an appliance. You'd think you would want to start in the field and work your way into a cushy high paying office job, but not in my case. The desk wasn't for me, and I quickly realized that there is significant money, well into 6 figures in my current position. I get to meet new people everyday, see new equipment and problems as well, and it's never boring. I was lucky enough to have a coworker who's been doing this for 40 years take me under his wing and provide a wealth of his own Knowledge and expertise. In return, I show him, consistently, how to catch more fish!!

    I'm now 34, still paying for my degree which stinks and have a great family, but I wouldn't change a thing. I'm 11 years now at my current job and don't ever want to leave.

    I tell everyone and anyone who listens that the building trades need help. There's plenty of money to be made in a great career path. It's a very stable job as well, no matter what's going on in the financial world, people still need heat, hot water and air conditioning. Mike Rowe didn't affect me as I was kinda before that, but looking back, I've seen every single episode of This Old House, and continue to watch it to this day and they have a great platform to keep talking to people about our work.
  • steamfitter
    steamfitter Member Posts: 156
    Helmets to Hardhats is a good recruitment tool from the veteran pool. Construction skills is another program recruitment young adults from urban communities. Both are having relative success with the trade unions in NYC.
    However, as some have already stated, millennials are challenging as apprentices. Different work ethic, little to no loyalty, short attention span and continuously distracted with IT. There are positives in that they are loyal to each other and can figure out certain problems very quickly often using IT. "There's an app for that!"

    While the baby boomer takes time to keep every nut and bolt organized on a clean rag to help them easily put things back together, a millennial takes a photo and throws everything in a box.

    We (baby boomers) have to take more time and patience to teach them the trade. And we have to really explain financial benefits like healthcare, pension and savings to lure them in. Not an easy task! But a necessary one.

    I try to use IT as much as possible. Videos, games, competitive quiz apps like kahoot, socrative and quizziz. Also surveys like poll everywhere are a good teaching tool. You don't have to have a school or classroom. You can teach anywhere. VR and other interactive technologies are growing.

    We will not be successful in recruiting good young workers if we continue to go "old school." That's just my two cents worth.
  • Lance
    Lance Member Posts: 257
    Wow, to Larry and the all the great guys and girls out there, I did not expect such a response but it makes sense. Like my Father taught me if it is to be, it is up to me. My work background was all homegrown, farm and ranch taught, and while I fought the school system from 5th grade to 11th, I look back and realized my high school graduate class saw the last of the best educators and disciplinarians. You can't learn without discipline, accountability and feedback. My first public school shop experience started in 7th -9 th grade ( JR High). Ran my first lathe in metal shop in 9th grade. I looked forward to HS where the real neat stuff was and I hoped would give me more. Sadly. and gladly music took over my class schedule and no time was left for shop. Thank God for my Dad making sure I was trained well. During 11th grade I realized I am responsible for my education and took over my future schooling. I got better grades, go figure! Kids need early exposure even at Age 6. I saw a carpenter saw a 2*4 in half with three strokes from his hand saw. Nothing like examples to shatter your low expectations.
    I often went to educators to ask if I could speak to students. I had been taught to teach; was experienced in public speaking but they just blew me off. I told them our youth needs motivating leaders to show and tell their way into success. That even without college they could become millionaires, and if not achieve that, they could still be handsomely rewarded because their goal was set high. On the news this am. I heard over 55% of teachers would not recommend their kids to become teachers. Many teachers are disillusioned by all the money spent but not making it to the student level. The greatest teacher in life is experience, it is a truth that cannot be denied, politicized or manipulated. We humans are happiest when we create. I have never found a single piece of evidence to refute my observations.
    From the first "DO DO" many kids say, "Look what made! " How much happier can you get about feces? Years ago we in the mechanical trades saw the reduced pool of applicants. We built our own trade schools, but it is not big enough. While tech marched forward, labor fell backwards. Mark my word, in a few years people will wait 30 days for the $200.00/hr tech to show up to fix their problem. Their is not enough manpower to fix all the stuff we build today. Who runs the educators anyway? What is their business plan beside go to college, bleed the populace of money and make sure they keep voting them in? What is tenure but an excuse to protect non performing results.
    IF IT IS TO BE..... I can sit in school, watch videos, or I can be a builder and learn and do even more.
    Isn’t it strange
    That princes and kings,
    And clowns that caper
    In sawdust rings,
    And common people
    Like you and me
    Are builders for eternity?

    Each is given a bag of tools,
    A shapeless mass,
    A book of rules;
    And each must make-
    Ere life is flown-
    A stumbling block
    Or a steppingstone.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 20,836
    Plenty of immigrants would love to be trained and offered blue collar jobs. Look around, who do you see doing the heavy manual labor jobs, the hospitality jobs, working in the farm fields and feed lots that feed America these days.
    While others play video games and hope to make it big as a reality star for an occupation :)

    If the schools and "system" here continues to demean trades and blue collar jobs, there is an answer knocking at the border.

    I remember a time when several hundred Polish immigrants cleared the building off a site where a famous gold tower resides in NYC, at 4 bucks an hour.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Erin Holohan Haskell
    Erin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 2,200
    I've come across a bunch of programs that are teaching kids the trades from as young as 8 years old. In NYC, there's Tools & Tiaras and in Oregon there's Girls Build. It's not traditional shop class, but these programs are doing wonderful work and the kids are loving it.

    We started a mentorship program through Women in Energy to educate and encourage young people on their career paths in the trades.

    And if you're attending Wetstock, you're helping the future of our industry. All proceeds from Wetstock will go towards merit awards for top graduates of the HVAC-R program at the Mechanics Institute.
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,806
    edited August 2019
    I taught at a community college about 10 years ago and I loved it. The dynamics of the classroom were proof of what I already saw as a contractor.

    My best students were the older guys whose jobs were eliminated, and young immigrants. The only differences between the two were that the old guys sat up front while the young immigrants sat in the back of the classroom.

    When it came to shop time, the old guys tended to be unsure of the tools while the young immigrants jumped right in and went to work. Both groups were a pleasure to teach and be around. They’re were always engaged, invested, asking questions, enjoying themselves.

    The difficult ones were usually, not always, young privileged kids. Screwing around in class, screwing around in shop, and grades that reflected their behavior. It even got to the point where the parents of 20 something year old kids were complaining to me about Mikey getting an F for the semester. My response was that Mikey’s grade reflected his efforts and his results. If he wants a better grade, he’ll have to put in the work like all the others.

    We need the young immigrant kids and young kids of color. In the Chicago area, I would guess that they represent 60-70% of the skilled tradespeople in the current HVAC workforce.
    Steve Minnich
  • Rick T
    Rick T Member Posts: 16
    For youngsters (or oldsters) willing to gut it out for an Associate's degree or a Bachelor's degree, HVAC training at those levels is available. I teach at one of these technical colleges providing education and degrees that open a ton of doors. We even teach steam! The graduates always get jobs in the industry (if they really want them). You don't have to be super academic, just willing to work to learn. There are plenty of hands-on labs where everything is applied. Students' pride is hard to contain after first firing up that boiler and letting some steam fly with the oil burner running at 86%!
    Intplm.Erin Holohan Haskell
  • Hvac_artisan
    Hvac_artisan Member Posts: 21
    I was about 18 years ago when I was in high school and blue-collar tradesmen jobs referred to as ‘manual labor’ Almost as if it made you a second-class citizen to go into the trades. I think there need to be active programs at a high school even middle school level to get kids excited about possibilities of working in the trades incorporate trade skills like soldering and brazing into art classes and things like that to make it interesting and fun. Then as kids move onto high school things like earning potential and wage numbers can be used to have a more significant impact on their career decisions.
    ZmanErin Holohan Haskell
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,917
    My 18 year old grandson has been helping me rewire/remodel a fair part of his school.
    I let him install about 12 lights (badly needed) in the storage room/attic. All in hard pipe. Pull the wire, I checked all his wirenut joints and hooked power up to that circuit.
    He seemed to light up like the bulbs when he turned it on.
    It was a feeling of actually building something himself.

    But he is off to 4 year college, major in Poly Science. :|
    But has some background and could start work as an apprentice electrician in construction if needed. ;)
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,479
    Rick T said:

    We even teach steam!


    Students' pride is hard to contain after first firing up that boiler and letting some steam fly with the oil burner running at 86%!

    Where is this located? And the boiler in question is a MegaSteam, right?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,177
    My father is 67 years old and I do fear the day he can no longer help me do this job because finding his replacement isn’t going to be easy because I’m spoiled.........
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey


    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,806
    I’m happy your dad has been able to stay with it so long. My next birthday will be my 60th. I lasted 38 years with the tools and didn’t have a single day left in me. My body was broken. I would’ve gone on forever if I could have.
    Steve Minnich