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Creating The Future By Looking Back

working_hands.jpgThis past week I was truly honored to be a 33+ year veteran of the HVAC – Mission Critical Environments industry. 

There were a total of 11 subject matter experts, well... 10 anyway, and me, in the room and the average time in the business was about 26 years. That's a whopping 286 years or so worth of industry experience and gave us the ability to help create the future by looking back on our collective paths, mistakes, findings and experiments.

The Mission Critical tribe, like almost any field, is really a small group of folks.  Over the years you come to know some people personally, some you only know virtually and the greatest experience of the week, for me, was meeting some of the industry experts on the data and cyber-security side of the house. What a wealth of knowledge this group had to work with.

For five days, pretty darn steadily from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM we crushed it. The staff leading us said things like, “You guys are really nailing it, your speed is surprising us and your quality is still top-tier." That kind of positive encouragement always makes me want to dig deeper on a personal level and I guess it was driving my peers to dig deep into the cranium as well. Although I suspect that smart group of young ladies knew exactly how to get a bunch of relatively old dogs to sprint, versus jog, through the course work.

So what does all this have to do with anything relevant to your world?

Well, just about everything. It comes down to our collective ability to introduce new, younger, fresher blood into the skilled trades and industries. The electrical field, the mechanical field, and the IT field at large are all suffering from a shortage of qualified applicants, much less actual workers.

All things that are physically built, installed, maintained and eventually replaced, require very specific skills that are learned from a combination of course curriculum in the classroom and a tremendous amount of time in the field or on the shop floor, developing a deep understanding of the physics and science behind the work. 

Skilled tradespeople, male and female, are in high demand... world wide. Our job, as the tax-paying working base and the producers of real work right now in this current age, has to be helping to ensure the longevity of our industries to so we can staff them accordingly and continue to be an economic super-power in the global commerce scene.

We often hear about STEM-based programs and training. This is a huge step in propelling us all forward. To me, the skilled trades are the positions that must be filled when the STEM programs are successful.

As an example,  an engineer designs an electrical infrastructure for a commercial high-rise building. The talent required to execute the work, build the parts and pieces, and install miles of conduit and wiring requires a specific skill-set, ones in short supply today. 

The HVAC technician, the building environmental controls technician, the fire and life safety specialists that keep our properties and our lives secure will always be in demand.

3D printing is a new technology, a very cool one at that, however, even if you printed an entire house, someone would still have to install potable water and waste piping, electrically wire it, environmentally condition it, and secure it. So, no matter how advanced we get, we still need hands, muscles and brains.

My point here is that we need skilled trades people to execute, in real life, in the dirty hands and skinned knuckles kind of way, the work that the engineers, scientist, mathematicians and technologists invent. We need them now, we always have and we always will. 

The challenge is filling the pipeline with the proper kinds of folks who will physically work hard, have a can-do attitude and seek excellence in all they do for the good of the collective cause. If you have a young person in your life, child, niece, nephew or just that kid that you know has much potential, but just hasn’t found her niche yet, give them the gift of pointing them towards a skilled trades career, it could be the best advice you ever offer.

Until next time,

Stay provoked.


The National Consortium of Mission Critical Operators ( certification curriculum was being tweaked and enhanced with more questions and scenarios and I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate.