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Mechanical Hub recently talked with Rich Camacho, CEO, Blue Recruit, about the hiring of qualified candidates to potential trade jobs. Blue Recruit is a company that provides skilled workers with a revolutionary path to success. While that mission is straightforward, reaching that goal requires tremendous collaboration between industry, educational systems and supporting organizations. Here is Read more

Mechanical Hub recently talked with Rich Camacho, CEO, Blue Recruit, about the hiring of qualified candidates to potential trade jobs. Blue Recruit is a company that provides skilled workers with a revolutionary path to success. While that mission is straightforward, reaching that goal requires tremendous collaboration between industry, educational systems and supporting organizations. Here is our discussion with Rich:

MH: What do you think the industry (PHVAC) can be doing better to recruit more to the trades?

CAMACHO: An issue we hear constantly amongst PHVAC companies, to a far greater extent than any other trade, is the idea that their company is “different.” I don’t know if it is a culture issue within PHVAC or a lack of competitor awareness, but many PHVAC owners have this misguided belief that the services they provide are more complicated than their competitors and thus must only hire highly experienced technicians and installers. Guess what, 95% of y’all provide the exact same services as the other five shops in your town and you are all fighting over the same technician or plumber that has seven years under their belt.

The insistence that you can only hire extremely experienced workers is a major hurdle to growth. Too often people complain “young people don’t want to work,” “they’re lazy,” “they are avoiding the trades to be social media influencers,” etc. Well, guess what? When you refuse to even interview someone trying to launch their skilled trades career, you become a major part of the problem. That business owner needs to remember that they were once a brand-new Apprentice, and someone took the time to train them. We will never train the trades’ next generation if we do not give them the opportunity to get started.

MH: Piggybacking off of this, how do we do a better job highlighting pay, lifestyle, for example, as huge positives while reducing the negative stereotypes with the trades?

CAMACHO: A major trend we have seen in recent years is that the average person is now well aware of the compensation potential in the trades. Trade and vocational schools are seeing higher enrollment than ever before. After all, if you’ve had your AC replaced or made an emergency plumbing call in the last three years you can vividly recall how many zeros where in that invoice.

However, what we as an industry are failing to promote is the flexibility the trades provides and the intrinsic benefit of the work itself. Compensation is actually the third most important factor for Job Seekers in deciding between job offers. A lasting impact of COVID is the desire for flexible schedules, and the trades often provide this freedom. Second, an astounding 87% of trades workers report being either satisfied or very satisfied in their work, while 62% of white-collar workers describe their work as “drudgery.” Remember those data points next time you hear a parent tell their child that the only way to succeed in life is by going to traditional 4-year college.

MH: During Covid, contractors were deemed essential workers. Do you think this heightened awareness to the trades as pandemic-proof and recession-proof to a certain extent?

CAMACHO: There is ZERO doubt that the trades are and will forever be the most recession-proof career track. After all, in a downturn economy, a family may decide not to take a planned vacation, might delay that planned home renovation, but they will still make the service call when their air goes out or the sink is overflowing.

With all the terrible that COVID brought us, a lasting positive legacy it left is the light it shined on what I’ll be bold enough to call the “Higher Education Cartel.” Insane student debt levels, often meaningless degrees, and social issues has shown many young people—just as importantly their adult influencers—that the trades are not a secondary option but a true avenue to success. Afterall, graduate enrollment rates are down about 15% from their 2010 highs, but construction focused trade school enrollment is up over 19% in that same period!

MH: We’ve been hearing a lot lately regarding hiring based on work ethic, abilities, desire, etc., and companies can the train the “skill.” Are you in agreement with this? Explain.

CAMACHO: Socrates once said the following, “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households.”

In other words, the older generation has ALWAYS thought that the younger generation is lazy, lacks discipline, etc. I’ll be the first to say that categorizing all young people in this way is simply incorrect. Every single day, whether it be in the interactions we have with students at one of our partnered trade schools, a SkillsUSA classroom, or feedback from a customer, we’re exposed to motivated young people working hard to grow their skills and build a lasting career.

I believe that such character traits are mostly built at a very young age in the home, and unless your company is operating a three-month bootcamp and shaving heads, it is unlikely you can truly develop such soft skills. The best way to see a person’s values and ethics before hiring, is to include personality assessments within your interview process which will identify strengths and weaknesses.

We also recommend having that potential candidate spend a half day onsite, shadowing your team, touring your facility, and ending the interview with a group lunch. This allows your employees to play a part in the hiring process and allows you to see how they will interact with others (including restaurant staff) on a social or personal level.

MH: How does someone get involved with Blue Recruit?

CAMACHO: Couldn’t be easier, go to www.BlueRecruit.com and create your free account in about 5 minutes. You can view live available talent in your area, hire when you’re ready, and if you have any questions, we host live training demos every workday at 10, 12, and 2 pm EST.

Finally, we love working with partners like Mechanical Hub, and we continue to do our part in connecting the workers that keep our country moving forward with tremendous employers.

Mechanical Hub is kicking off a series of posts of what we see as trending topics for 2024. The first in the series is Artificial Intelligence. As an editor covering the PHVAC industry for more than 20 years, not too much has been as polarizing as the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Okay, maybe press Read more

Mechanical Hub is kicking off a series of posts of what we see as trending topics for 2024. The first in the series is Artificial Intelligence.

As an editor covering the PHVAC industry for more than 20 years, not too much has been as polarizing as the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Okay, maybe press technology, tape vs. dope or drain cleaning is plumbing. But I digress.

What’s interesting to me is that AI is all around us, and whether we know if it “shits in the woods,” does that make it okay? Listen, we’ve all had conversations around a certain topic only to find out later that said topic has now filled your social media feed. But we’ve become to desensitized to that by now, haven’t we?

Recently, the once revered Sports Illustrated magazine employed a product review columnist, that wasn’t. I mean he didn’t exist. It was revealed the columnist was AI generated, picture and all, and so was the creation of content. So what information is real or believable?

Coming full circle, I was working recently on a case study regarding a pretty sizable mechanical contractor and a boiler retrofit. I was told to reach out to the marketing department for some background info and some initial quotes on the project. When I submitted the story to the contractor for review and approval, I was asked if I had used ChatGPT for the article. Say what?! As it turns out, I had been working— via email—with a PR intern and he used ChatGPT pretty extensively. Turns out, the two sentences I included in the text to describe their own company were, in fact, auto generated. But why? Easy and efficient means of collecting information, I guess.

2024 tech trends, innovation, deepfake, technology, artificial intelligence, AI, plumbing, heating ad cooling, ChatGPT, chat bot

But there is much more to AI than just chat bots—such as data collection and machine learning, for example. There are some in the industry that follow AI much more closely than me, and there is a growing consensus is that we need to embrace AI. “The crux of Artificial Intelligence is that it is already here, so we have two choices: either get shaped by it or we shape it,” says Anmol Bhasin, Chief Technical Officer, ServiceTitan.

John Mullen, industry subject matter expert, has an optimistic take on AI and how it will shape our industry over the next decade or two. “My philosophy on AI remains malleable on a personal front always, as we continue into this new era of AI being everywhere. With that said, it’s clear that plumbing and mechanical work has been having a revolutionary moment with the advancement of technology in construction materials and tools. These next few years will undoubtably keep the skilled trades trending in the right direction as an opportunity to work, learn and live well,” says Mullen.

There are so many opportunities in our industry for advancement with artificial general intelligence (AGI) and GPT chat bots that assist with dataset specific outputs, continues Mullen. “I’m excited for the organization of efforts, focused on the sustainability of our planet and how it can help us build resilience. Quality data is what makes artificial intelligence impactful, and if harnessed correctly, we could make transformative changes and provide an undeniable increase to the quality of our daily lives.”

Yet, is there any oversight on AI? Last October, the White House released a statement on AI which reads, “Artificial intelligence (AI) holds extraordinary potential for both promise and peril. Responsible AI use has the potential to help solve urgent challenges while making our world more prosperous, productive, innovative, and secure. At the same time, irresponsible use could exacerbate societal harms such as fraud, discrimination, bias, and disinformation; displace and disempower workers; stifle competition; and pose risks to national security. Harnessing AI for good and realizing its myriad benefits requires mitigating its substantial risks.

“The Federal Government will enforce existing consumer protection laws and principles and enact appropriate safeguards against fraud, unintended bias, discrimination, infringements on privacy, and other harms from AI. Such protections are especially important in critical fields like healthcare, financial services, education, housing, law, and transportation, where mistakes by or misuse of AI could harm patients, cost consumers or small businesses, or jeopardize safety or rights.  At the same time, the Administration will promote responsible uses of AI that protect consumers, raise the quality of goods and services, lower their prices, or expand selection and availability.”

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John Mullen is continuously seeking out the new trends and technology. Here, John is checking out the latest in VR tech.

However, as of right now, says Mullen, we are in the organize phase, where data is being collected and integrated without a real unbiased vetting of knowledge. This is an era that will be ripe with scams and schemes but before long, we will be in the most optimized and transparent version. Most will utilize artificial intelligence and scale their needs to help assist with the things we no longer have the passions to pursue. “It looks to me like skilled trade work is going to get very technical over the next few years and that is super exciting. Having a general understanding of how to use and prompt AI models as a service provider will become a standard skillset for the workforce. This becomes truer each day, as contractors build buildings for the most technical end users the world has ever seen,” says Mullen.

According to Bhasin, data is an industrial revolution in and of itself, and AI is taking it one more level forward. “Over the last year, year and a half AI has leveled the playing field because the barrier to entry has suddenly and dramatically dropped.

For example, “For Service Titan’s Titan Intelligence, there were peculiar scenarios where we saw opportunities for optimization and started putting algorithms there to facilitate outcomes for our customers. If you bridge that and collect all of these features together, the results are best practices for the contractors using AI algorithmically to facilitate those specific outcomes of top line revenue efficiency and effectiveness,” says Bhasin.

Mullen says that we must stay vigilant about AI during the initial programming. “This technology was developed to outpace humans in all the tasks and protocols we, the collective society, have established. This will undoubtably lead to the emergence of information about how and why we do the things we do, leading to gained efficiencies and greater understanding of general principles,” says Mullen.

But what about those legitimate concerns with AI such as data breaches, social manipulation, fake news, etc.? “Much of this will be resolved through exposure and transparency,” says Mullen. “I think we are going to learn a lot about ourselves over the next few decades and with the help of AI, we’ll have an easier time determining good from bad with analysis and visualizations of data.”

Bhasin says that world of hackers is an enemy that is never going away so you have to keep up on your game. An ironic twist, “All of this AI stuff we’re talking about; it is the similar set of technologies we are placing against for safeguarding from nefarious actors.” It’s like using venom from the snake as an antidote for a snake bite, right?

And what is a deepfake, and is it concerning? Deepfakes are very concerning, says Mullen. As part of the general terms and agreements, being on social media means you have donated your personal information to a large language model (LLM) that has more than enough audio and visual content to create a digital avatar of you, in most cases. This part of the topic can get quite controversial when discussing digital verification, but truly there may not be another way to ensure we have our own voice. “Only through verification, can we ensure our privacy and sovereignty on the internet. There are still federal policies being discussed surrounding these “growing pains” and I follow them keenly to remain aware and able to help identify fraud,” says Mullen.

Will AI be replacing real, tangible jobs anytime soon? Mullen tends to be bullish on AI’s ability to create new roles and purpose. “Certainly, in the short term, work is going to increase for the skilled trades as we build more intelligent facilities and infrastructure for a new digital landscape.”

Mullen believes that AI and robotics together will help us build a prosperous future, full of abundance that for the first time in our history, gets shared for the betterment of people. When we can create locally the needs of our communities, our sustainability increases drastically. “It’s an interesting experiment that is being played out in real time that will inevitably have some bugs but again, I’m an optimist,” says Mullen.

In the end, says Mullen, it seems that having respect for how it works, why now and what it could become, seems like a smart move. There is no putting this genie back in its bottle. Over the next few years innovation competition is going to be at an all-time high and periods like these can leave a giant mark on our timelines.

“I hope to see our industry and tradespeople use these new technologies and create new ones with it, as it was intended. Creating and building the world around us is something we will continue to do forever. Considering this another tool of the trades can preserve the craft and ‘protect the health of the nation,’” says Mullen.

Are we beyond using the COVID pandemic years of 2020-2021 as a benchmark for anything moving forward? Ok, this will be my last but I felt that AHR 2024 knocked it out of the park, with attendance numbers equaling that of shows past, pre-pandemic. I actually heard, and this hasn’t been verified as of yet Read more

Are we beyond using the COVID pandemic years of 2020-2021 as a benchmark for anything moving forward? Ok, this will be my last but I felt that AHR 2024 knocked it out of the park, with attendance numbers equaling that of shows past, pre-pandemic. I actually heard, and this hasn’t been verified as of yet, but the day one on-site registration was nearing record levels. And day two crowds were still buzzing as traffic on the floor filled the aisles. (THIS JUST IN FROM AHR: It was clear to anyone filling the halls on Monday morning of the show that attendance was strong, welcoming 48,034 attendees there to interact with the 1,875 exhibitors spread across North and South Halls. )

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

To a booth, everyone was satisfied with the turnout and conversations during the show. The show marked a return to business as usual, at a much more accelerated pace. And to think, this is during mid-January, polar vortex temps, no less. (Don’t miss next year’s show February 10-12 in Orlando.)

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

U.S. Boiler Co.’s Ambient Heat Pump

Technology, innovation and new products dazzled, with heat pumps and the push toward electrification still dominating the topics of conversation. We heard more of VR and simulation training as a trending topic as well, with Artificial Intelligence, Workforce Development, Decarbonization all playing big parts at the show.

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

The Mechanical Hub team had a busy three days shooting videos in-booth, recording both Make Trades Great Again and Appetite for Construction podcasts, and we were even asked to emcee—and be a part of—a Coffee with Caleffi panel in the Caleffi booth on Monday morning. There, hosts John Mesenbrink and Tim Ward talked with industry bigs John Siegenthaler, Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr, Eric Aune and Andy Mickelson.

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

The discussion revolved around lifelong learning in the trades: where do these legends go to learn? Forgetting more than most of us will ever learn, Siegenthaler and Rohr talked about outlets for learning and continued training. Aune and Mickelson gave the point of view from a current business owner and working contractor, and the impact of social media in today’s PHVAC trades.

We can’t forget about the after-parties and the go-to for us has always been the Taco event Monday evening. It’s a chance to meet up with old and new friends alike.

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

From l to r: Eric Aune, John Mesenbrink, Ben White, Tim Ward, Mike Prencavage, Jr.

One event I had the pleasure of attending—and it was my first time—was the HVAC Tactical Awards extravaganza held at the Planetarium downtown Chicago. I believe this was the fourth annual event, and the tagline, “It’s a mindset” is turning into “It’s a movement.” This was another great event to see good friends, and the idea of night of  “Blue Collar Goes Black Tie” can’t be overstated.

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

Ben Poole, HVAC Tactical

The industry needs events like this to showcase the trades in the best, shining light there is. And this event, with the red-carpet entry, exclusive red-carpet interviews, cocktail parties pre and post, and the awards ceremony, give this a gala-type feel, with everyone dressed to the nines, and I think everyone digs that vibe, at least for one night.

I wrote this “10 Tips ..” story in the early months of 2020, and we all know what happened after that, right? I thought it would be fun some four years later to amend the list accordingly. So here goes … … with the turn of every calendar year comes the rush of industry trade Read more

I wrote this “10 Tips ..” story in the early months of 2020, and we all know what happened after that, right? I thought it would be fun some four years later to amend the list accordingly. So here goes …

… with the turn of every calendar year comes the rush of industry trade shows. Next week we will be “traveling” to my hometown of Chicago for the AHR Show (January 22-24). Concurrently, during the same week, the WWETT show will be doing its thing in Indy (January 24-26). And if that wasn’t enough trade show hype for one week, the World of Concrete Show in Las Vegas is held, you guessed it, the same week (January 23-25).

Following that, we will be in Las Vegas toward the end of February for the IBS/KBIS Show (February 27-29). All of these shows are worth the trip, depending your trade specialty, and what’s most important to you. Normally, I recommend all of these shows but this year is sort of an anomaly so the MH team had to pivot accordingly; I hope you have chosen so as well, my friends.

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

The purpose for those attending is to see, feel and test new products, learn and network with fellow attendees. Oh, did I mention hanging out with friends and this awesome community? When attending these trade shows it is best to have a plan. Having attended dozens of these show in the past, I have come up with some tips and strategies to having a successful show.

1. Map Out Your Plan — All of these shows have corresponding websites with a list of exhibitors and events. Map out your day so you are the most efficient with your time, energy and steps on the trade show floor. (ahrexpo.com & www.worldofconcrete.com & www.wwettshow.com & www.buildersshow.com) I can’t stress enough to download the appropriate trade show app and make a plan. It’s a must.

2. Wear Comfortable Shoes & Clothing — We all want to look good, and professional, but gone are the days of stuffy apparel. I’d rather feel comfortable and fresh at the end of the day than out of sorts, sweaty and my dogs barking.

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

3. Give Yourself Enough Time — The stress of a trade show can be daunting in and of itself. Take as much time as you need to take a deep breath and move freely on the show floor. It’s always a good idea to come in the day or night before a show to make sure all is in order and registration for the show is set. If you are planning a night out, make sure you make any necessary reservations ahead of time.

4. Afterparty Over-Indulging — We all love to go out and enjoy ourselves, especially after a long day at a show. There are numerous manufacturer parties, dinners, soirees, etc. where one can relax and wind down. But staying out all night—and drinking—can be fun, and up to your discretion, but it isn’t advisable, especially if you intend to be at the show the following day. Nobody is impressed with the over-perspired, alcohol lingering on breath, bags under the eyes, headache pounding visit from on over-served attendee. Also, carry water and/or energy drinks and energy bars—or something to snack on—with you.

5. Plan Accordingly for Transportation — Most of the time at busy trade shows, transportation can, well, be a bitch, especially after a show. Keep this in mind as long taxi lines will form to and from the shows. Download your favorite rideshare app so you are locked and loaded.

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

6. Visit the Podcast Pavilions — Everyone listens to podcasts, yes? Some of your favorite listens (Appetite for Construction & Make Trades Great Again, among others) will be recording “live” from the podcast pavilions located just in front of the North Hall to the right as your facing the entrance, behind registration and conveniently located by the beer garden. So grab a favorite beverage, relax and enjoy the p-casts!

7. Badges, We Don’t Need No Stinking’… — Well, make sure you have proper badges for the show. For example, attendee, exhibitor and press badges all provide different access and different access times. Make sure you understand the limitations of your particular given badge.

8. Follow-up with Contacts — Once the show is over, what it your end game? What better way to measure the results of a show personally than to document leads, follow up with new contacts, and were you satisfied with your expectations of information, contacts and overall impressions?

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

9. If Unable to Attend … — Be sure to follow your favorite social media outlets (@mechanicalhub & @plumbing_perspective for sure!) that may be attending and keep up to date on what’s going on from the show floor. First-of-the-year trade show events are when companies have big product announcements, launches and press briefings.

10. Cellular/WiFi Service — Most shows do not offer WiFi on the show floor, or if they do, it usually sucks. There are certain spots at different venues you may be able to sneak a signal, maybe. Make sure you have business cards on hand or be prepared to exchange info digitally through apps on your phone, so make sure your phone is charged or bring extra chargers!

Like deducing the age of a tree by counting its rings, I count age as it relates to how many AHR shows I have attended. I think I count 20 AHRs, 2021 notwithstanding. Good luck, have a great time, and have a great trade show experience!

REGISTER HERE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/coffee-with-caleffi-live-charting-the-course-for-lifelong-learning-tickets-771633776397 How do you keep up-to-date on industry trends? John Mesenbrink and Tim Ward of Mechanical Hub will lead a conversation as they interview BIG NAME industry leaders to uncover how they Chart the Course for Lifelong Learning. The panel features John Siegenthaler, P.E., Eric Aune and Andy Mickelson – touted as the “voices of today’s contractor” – and Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr. You’ll Learn Read more

REGISTER HERE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/coffee-with-caleffi-live-charting-the-course-for-lifelong-learning-tickets-771633776397

How do you keep up-to-date on industry trends? John Mesenbrink and Tim Ward of Mechanical Hub will lead a conversation as they interview BIG NAME industry leaders to uncover how they Chart the Course for Lifelong Learning.

The panel features John Siegenthaler, P.E.Eric Aune and Andy Mickelson – touted as the “voices of today’s contractor” – and Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr.

You’ll Learn:

  • How to stay up to date on developing industry technology and trends.
  • Formal, classroom training. Virtual training. Where are professionals “going” to learn?
  • What is the impact of social media in lifelong learning?

Register to Win:

Register for free and join us to receive your limited edition Caleffi Gold Standard camo hat.
(Limit one per registrant, while supplies last.) Simply show your digital or printed ticket after the Coffee with Caleffi LIVE session.

All attendees of Caleffi LIVE events qualify for an opportunity to WIN one-of-a-kind custom sculpture by Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr. The drawing will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 11 am.

And, a full set of idronics technical journals signed by John Siegenthaler will be raffled during Charting the Course for Lifetime Learning event. Don’t miss out!

MCs:
John Mesenbrink and Tim Ward, Mechanical Hub

Panelists:

  • John Siegenthaler, P.E., Appropriate Designs, NY
  • Eric Aune, Aune Plumbing, MN & Mechanical Hub
  • Andy Mickelson, Michelson Plumbing & Heating, MT
  • Bob Rohr, a.k.a. “Hot Rod”, Caleffi North America, UT

Enjoy:

During Coffee with Caleffi LIVE, be sure to enjoy a specially prepared cappuccino, espresso or latte, made-to-order by our barista.

All this at Booth S7981 on Monday, Jan. 22 at 11 am CST. Register today!