MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (WCCO) — Saying that college wasn’t the right fit, Chris Van Antwerp pursued a trade career. After ten years of employment with a local machine shop, he made a switch – and started working at Comfort Matters Heating and Cooling.

“The amount of training I saw Comfort Matters offer me was a big decision,” explained Van Antwerp. “It helped me make my decision to make the switch.”

Now Van Antwerp is collecting a paycheck while learning a skill. He splits his time between the shop warehouse and assisting on HVAC installations.

But with demand for residential and commercial construction booming, there’s a serious shortage of electricians, carpenters, plumbers and yes, heating, ventilating and air conditioning technicians.

Corey Hickmann manages Comfort Matters and also sits on the board of the Minnesota Heating and Cooling Association.

“Right now we’re predicting that by 2022 we’re going to be short 138,000 people just in HVAC,” said Hickmann.

That’s why companies like Hickmann’s are offering apprenticeship programs. MHCA even hands out trade school scholarships to interested high school graduates. This spring however, of the six being offered, only five scholarships were claimed.

“We have to work to get applications, it’s actually hard to give the money away, which seems silly,” Hickmann explained.

HVAC jobs offer good benefits and competitive starting salaries, in the range of 40 to 50-thousand dollars per year.

But Hickmann added, “give them a couple of years of experience and they’re going to be making 60, 80, 90-thousand. One-hundred thousand or over one-hundred thousand dollars with no debt.”

That’s why Chris’ goal is to become a skilled HVAC installer with his Maple Grove employer.

“I get a few years under my belt and some experience and then move up from there,” said Van Antwerp.

An attractive career, without the college debt.

Bill Hudson

Comments (2)