This article was originally published in the winter 2024 issue of the Ivy Indy magazine.

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry is booming significantly.

Employment of HVAC and refrigeration technicians is projected to grow 6% from 2022 to 2032, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the fastest growth average of all occupations.

HVAC is an integral part of our lives, ensuring a comfortable environment regardless of prevailing weather conditions. With the increasing demand for energy-efficient systems, coupled with the growth of both commercial and residential construction and infrastructural development, the industry has seen a steady rise in its revenue. Human life expectancy is steadily increasing and will create a constant demand for replacement parts and services for older HVAC systems. Plus, there is the inevitable need to replace our most senior generation of the workforce, soon to retire.

“The HVAC industry is lucrative and diverse in skillset. Everybody thinks you’re just installing air conditioners, but that’s far from the case. Skilled HVAC workers actually do less of that than anything else,” Jerry Alderman, chair of Ivy Tech Indianapolis’ HVAC program, said.

Alderman has worked in the HVAC industry for 27 years. For 10 of those years, he’s been part of Ivy Tech Indianapolis’ HVAC program as faculty and is now the HVAC program chair.

Alderman says folks with an HVAC skillset and enhanced knowledge will increasingly work with smart homes. According to a report from Bloomberg, the global smart home automation market is estimated to be valued at $444.98 billion by 2030. Thus, as the smart home automation market continues to grow, so will the skilled trades industry, which is needed for the maintenance of every facet of a home.

“Part of creating smart homes means installing sensors that can detect when no one is in the home, and the air or heat automatically shuts off to preserve energy,” Alderman said, providing an example. “These HVAC systems can also be controlled directly from your phone. For instance, let’s say you get off of work early and you want to turn the heat on now so by the time you get home, it's comfortable; you can do that from an app with the click of a button.”

Ivy Tech, with the help of the Lowe’s Foundation, is preparing Hoosiers to meet the demand for skilled HVAC technicians. Ivy Tech was one of 11 community and technical colleges selected to receive the Lowe’s Foundation's first-ever Gable Grants to recruit, train and employ future skilled trades workers in the U.S. This partnership is part of the Lowe’s Foundation’s larger 5-year, $50 million commitment to train 50,000 job-ready skilled tradespeople.

Ivy Tech formally received the $700,000 Gable Grant in October, and the Indianapolis campus’ ESCO Excellence-accredited skilled trade labs is one of the seven campuses receiving grant money. Ivy Tech is specifically dedicating the money to developing a short-term HVAC skills training pilot program for entry-level technicians and providing unique training opportunities for justice-involved individuals.

“The thing is, at least one or two students per term will get to a certain point where they can’t afford to finish. And they tell me it’s not because the price is unreasonable, but because they just can’t afford it,” Alderman shared. “And I hate to see it because it never fails that those students are the best in the class. It’s a lot more painful to watch when you see a person not go through with an opportunity they’re good at because of money.”

Nick Maddox is an HVAC apprentice through his employer, Eli Lilly & Co. He was pleasantly surprised by how beneficial he found the program.

“I've accelerated my career progression as far as learning something new – something I would never have thought I would have been into – and doing it every day on the job,” Maddox, who will earn his technical certificate in HVAC in spring 2024, said.

Maddox (and his employer, Eli Lilly) is also a prime example of Alderman’s goal to create more employer partnerships with the HVAC program.

“I'm learning so much, between my mentors and going to the school, that I feel within a few years, I honestly could be a subject matter expert,” he continued. “It's so cool to see that you can go to school with some initial interest, get through the classes, earn your certificates, and land a good-paying job, or a higher-paying job, once you’re out of school.”

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.