How HVAC Looks to Gen Z: Part 1

Alex Tinder Blog Part 1

Greetings all! My name is Alex Tinder, and I am a twenty-year-old college student. During summer breaks, I usually work full-time to save up money and get some more real-world experience notched on my belt. As I pondered where to apply for a summer job, I was adamant about avoiding a job that wouldn’t value me or my time. Then, my father made an excellent suggestion. He knew about a local HVAC company in Bend, Oregon, where I reside, and he told me I should drop off a resume. I figured it couldn’t hurt, and as a result, I was quickly hired. BDR has asked me to write a three-part blog detailing my time spent working in HVAC over the summer.

My Experience in HVAC

Having had very little experience with the construction industry, or even tools for the matter, I was slightly intimidated going into HVAC. I was approaching something I didn’t know how to do every day. I take pride in doing something well, thus I found my lack of experience and understanding agitating, to put it mildly.  Luckily, my coworkers were happy to show me the ropes, from wrapping duct correctly, proper tool usage, to safety musts and must nots, among other things. 

Above all, I enjoy the hands-on-experience that HVAC offers me. It is great being outside and on the move; not cramped inside a store. Some days, I scale ladders to help haul sheet metal up onto roofs, construct units, and drill the units to secure them. Others, I crawl under houses to drag lineset, then plaster the holes we created shut so that no water or pests would find their way into the homeowner’s home. I’m active throughout the day, and as a newcomer, each day provides new challenges that I increasingly feel equipped to overcome.

Perks of the Job

I start at 7am and end sometime around 3pm. While it can be a rough transition for us younger folk, I grew to enjoy the consistency of the hours. In other jobs I’ve held, I would be scheduled late into the evening for one night, and bright and early for the next. The irregularity of the hours, and the effect on my sleep patterns made it challenging to do anything else. With the HVAC schedule, there’s plenty of time for personal affairs after work, and enough time to get a good night’s rest.

Choosing a job isn’t just about the money, but it’s a factor that can’t be ignored. I’ve poured blood and sweat into jobs, and despite exemplary performance, I had little to show for it. When I worked retail, I was asked if I wanted to train to be a manager. Eager to advance, I said yes. New responsibilities were given to me, like safe access, running the store for periods of time while managers took lunch or attended meetings, and alarm codes, among other things. However, when the time for employee reviews came around, all I received was a mandatory twenty-five cent pay increase, despite my increased duties and excellent work ethic. With all the time and dedication, I had put into the job, it felt like a slap in the face.

In HVAC, I started at a higher wage than I had ever earned. I also feel like my time was valued, not just by a dollar metric, but my coworkers as well. For example, while I usually pair up with someone more experienced to work on a residential or commercial project, I spent one day fabricating and working in the shop. Rob, the shop lead, was ecstatic to show me and the other greenhorns how the different machines worked and check over the quality of our work. He was thrilled when we finished a task and came back to him looking for more. Another employee in the shop fashioned a custom drill-bit for me so I could accomplish a task more efficiently. At the end of that particular day, Rob gave us heartfelt thanks and hoped that we would be working with him again the next day. It’s kind gestures like these that made me feel I was valued as a human, and not just a body to be ordered around.

As a college student, middle management is one of darkest nightmares. To me, they exemplify and help exaggerate the disconnect between employees and the corporate side of a business. In HVAC, I was not met with this problem. My days are spent with people who know what they were doing, and how to effectively get it done. Practical problem solving is a regular part of the job and applying those skills to get a job done and make customers happy brought far more pride and satisfaction than trying to meet abstract and unrealistic goals set by an out-of-touch corporate entity.

The Community

I was pleasantly surprised by the broader sense of community and camaraderie that permeates the HVAC trade. Friendly conversations about life happenings or weekend plans are often heard, and offers to help each other are just as common, whether it be dog sitting, lending a tool, or taking time to assist on a backyard project. People try to introduce themselves, shake my hand, and remember my name. Drywallers, framers, plumbers, and electricians alike are familiar with my coworkers, and good-natured banter is readily exchanged.  It feels like being part of a large extended family. They want you to succeed and do your job right, they’ll show you how to do it, and all the while, they get to poke a little bit of fun at you.

Going Forward

It’s been a challenging start. The learning processes out in the field are something that can’t be recreated in a textbook or a classroom. As time goes on and I become more competent, each day grows to be more rewarding and enjoyable. I look forward to updating you all my progress and education in part two of this series.