Comfort Tech Heating and Cooling has been providing unparalleled service to the Okanagan Valley for years.
They would like to continue doing that—and there is no doubt they will—but they are having a tough time finding enough tradespeople to do all the work that is available. Comfort Tech is not alone, either. Other heating, ventilation and air conditioning companies, not to mention those in the plumbing and electrical fields, are experiencing similar worker shortages.
“Right now I could hire easily three or four more technicians if I could find them,” Comfort Tech co-owner Terri Wilkinson says. “I would hire more apprentices, but I can’t because I don’t have enough journeymen to train them.
“We turn down work every day. It’s very frustrating.”
Comfort Tech isn’t imploring young people to think about the trades just for their own business; they are concerned about the entire industry and would like to see every position filled across the spectrum.
“There’s less and less people all the time from the high schools being pushed toward the trades,” Wilkinson says. “Most parents want their kids to go to college. It’s getting better, but there’s a huge gap. The Baby Boomers are all retiring, and there’s a lot of tradespeople—blue-collar workers—in that group of people. And all the kids now are going to college to get degrees they can’t really get work for, and they’re not looking at trades as a viable option.”
Wilkinson points out that there are many economic benefits to getting into trades. The government provides incentive programs, which include workers using employment insurance while they attend school, to make it worth their whiles. If that’s not enough, the pay once you become an apprentice is more than attractive.
“We’ve raised our wages probably 20 per cent in the last year or two,” Wilkinson says. “We have full medical, full dental, extended benefits, RRSP programs with matching. We have all of that stuff. We provide them with vehicles, vacation pay … anything you can think of.
“I think a lot of people believe that trades are not year-round work, but I haven’t laid a guy off due to lack of work for five or six years. If somebody left high school and got into a trade immediately, they could be earning thirty dollars an hour by the time they’re 23 or 24 years old.”
Wilkinson said apprentices and journeymen wouldn’t be bored at work, as Comfort Tech provides a variety of services. They work in both residential and commercial buildings, and they do everything from furnaces to air conditioning to hot water tanks to fireplaces.
The industry is also one of the most prolific when it comes to cutting-edge technology; Comfort Tech is almost entirely paperless, every worker uses iPads, and work orders going back years are available at the touch of a finger. Wilkinson hopes that makes it an attractive profession for young people.
“When you embrace technology in that fashion,” she says, “that can be really attractive to the millennial generation.”
For more information about working at Comfort Tech, visit their website.
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Okanagan Edge.
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