By Nancy E. Brune, Ph.D. and Paulina Kerrigan
Singer Nelly’s lyrics “It’s getting hot in here” comes to mind every summer here in Nevada. In the north, one may reference the heroic efforts to extinguish raging fires, most recently the Qwyhee and Martin fires, the latter of which has been contained. In the south, residents are bracing for another excessive heat wave, which may have played a role in the death of seven residents last week.
Around the Silver State, air conditioning companies and their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians are in high demand during the hot summer months. Interviews with several air conditioning companies in southern Nevada indicated that they receive roughly 50-200 service calls during the summer months, which is often double what they receive during other times of the year. On average, customers may have to wait approximately 24-48 hours for air conditioning companies in southern Nevada to respond to a service call.
Both nationally and around the state, HVAC technicians are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated, “Employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations [which is around 7 percent]. Commercial and residential building construction is expected to drive employment growth, and job opportunities for HVAC/R [heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration] technicians are expected to be good.”
In Nevada, data from the Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation (DETR), indicates that short-term HVAC job growth is expected to increase by 14 percent over 2016-2018. HVAC job growth over the period 2014-2024 is expected to increase by 42 percent. New construction is driving employment in the occupation, but new technology and an aging workforce are also significant drivers of job growth.
As of 2017, data suggests that hourly and annual (mean) wages for HVAC technicians are higher than the average across many careers within the job category of Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations (see Table 1). In 2017, the hourly (mean) wage for HVAC technicians was $25.39, which is higher than for all occupations within the category of Installation, Maintenance and Repair Occupations. The annual (mean) salary was $52,810, significantly higher than higher occupations within the same category.
Photo: Commercial air conditioning system, Boyd Gaming property, Clark County, Nevada
Table 1. HVAC employment and wage data, Nevada, 2017
Occupational data suggests that there will be 154 job openings for new HVAC technicians each year. Several community colleges in the Silver State and unions offer HVAC programs and certificates to address the Silver State’s workforce needs. For example, Truckee Meadows offers Associate of Applied Science degrees in HVAC/R and HVAC/R Critical Systems, as well as a HVAC/R Certificate of Achievement, HVAC/R Skills Certificate, and Commercial Refrigeration Skills Certificate. The College of Southern Nevada (CSN) offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Air Conditioning Technology, Air Conditioning Technology – Central Plant, Air Conditioning Technology – Critical Systems, and Air Conditioning Technology – Food Service Refrigeration, as well as a certificate of achievement in Air Conditioning Technology. In May 2018, CSN awarded 19 A.A.S. degrees and 7 certificates of achievement.
Photo collage: Commercial air conditioning and heating units, MGM property, Clark County, Nevada. Photo Credit: Paulina Kerrigan
This fall, CSN is launching its HVAC Center of Excellence, J. Duncan Goodrich Air Conditioning Technology Lab, which will be housed at the William and Dorothy Raggio High Tech Center at Western, adjacent to Western High school. “CSN is now in a position to increase our output of HVAC technicians to meet the local and national demand,” said Seanna Larson, a research technician in the Department of Applied Technology.
Photo collage: CSN HVAC Center of Excellence. Photo Credit: Paulina Kerrigan
The renovated, state-of-the-art facility will house four separate hands-on learning laboratories for Residential Air Conditioning, Commercial Refrigeration, and Central Plant/Critical Systems, as well as a sheet metal shop. In the new Center of Excellence, CSN faculty will be able to teach both Residential Air Conditioning and Commercial HVACR.
As part of this new CSN HVAC Center of Excellence at Western, CSN is strengthening its partnership with the Clark County School District (CCSD). Starting in 2018-2019, CSN will launch a new dual enrollment program with Western High School. Participating high school students at Western High will have the opportunity to earn 10 credits per semester towards a Certificate of Achievement, or Associate of Applied Science in Air Conditioning Technology. If a high school student begins the dual enrollment program in her junior year of high school, she will have the opportunity to concurrently complete their Certificate of Achievement in Air Conditioning Technology as she completes her general high school graduation requirements. These high school graduates would be able to enter the workforce as technicians.
CSN faculty noted that the skills and competencies embedded in the Associate of Applied Science in Air Conditioning Technology are the same skills used in robotics and advanced manufacturing, the latter of which has been identified as a high-growth and high-demand industry in the Silver State. Innovative programming at the community college, in collaboration with the school districts, is helping address Nevada’s workforce needs and keeping Nevada’s residents cool during the hot summer months.