East Williamson County

(HUTTO, Texas) – As the Austin area continues to grow with residential housing and high-rise buildings, so does the need for qualified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians.

“This is a really high-tech area, but just because you live in a town for high-tech, not everybody is,” said Curtis Christian, an HVAC Technology instructor at Texas State Technical College’s East Williamson County campus in Hutto. “The problem I have noticed is a huge percentage of them have never worked on anything.”

Texas has more than 25,200 HVAC mechanics and installers earning an annual mean wage of more than $46,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Austin-Round Rock area has more than 1,800 HVAC mechanics and installers. The Arlington-Dallas-Fort Worth area has the most workers in the state with more than 7,100.

Even with economic growth and more people moving to Central Texas, some area businessmen said they still have a hard time finding qualified workers.

“This time of year we are working until midnight because we are short-staffed,” said Roland Arrisola, vice president of operations at Stan’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Austin and secretary on the Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association’s executive board. “We don’t have enough workers to serve our customers.”

Joe Strazza, owner of Precision Heating and Air in Austin, said he has noticed HVAC technicians tend to jump from business to business, chasing money and benefits. But, he said some of those same employees tend to return to work where they started.

“HVAC is a tough business,” Strazza said. “It is very hot in the attic, but it is rewarding if you are a dedicated worker and dedicated to succeed.”

Christian said students who have experience working on vehicles tend to adapt well to TSTC’s HVAC Technology program.

“Part-time work would be great for the students,” Christian said. “It is a good thing to do.”

Christian said students graduating from TSTC’s HVAC Technology program get jobs as service workers on the residential side or as helpers on the commercial side of HVAC.  Some graduates have even gone to work in the refrigeration field.

The number of HVAC mechanics and installers is projected to grow nationwide to more than 381,000 by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency indicates those with computer and electronics skills have better chances at jobs.

Strazza said the conversation needs to change in homes and high schools about how students should approach choosing whether to attend a four-year college or a two-year technical college.

“I have employees making more than $100,000 a year, and they are not in any student loan debt,” he said. “Parents, I believe, are not educated at how much money can be made in this industry. This is a career, not a job. A lot of people don’t realize that.”

TSTC offers the Associate of Applied Science degree and a certificate in HVAC Technology at the East Williamson County campus.

“The HVAC industry presents tremendous opportunities for students seeking a high-paying career with upward mobility,” said Edgar Padilla, provost of TSTC’s East Williamson County campus and statewide chief of Strategic Partnerships and Production. “We work diligently with area employers to create employment for our graduates, and TSTC is proud to be a leader in the delivery of HVAC training across the state.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

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