Alex Richards, Teaching the next generation of skilled trade technicians

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So welcome. So we’re relocated at Alex.

So I live obviously in the UK as you can probably tell by my accent but I live in Nottingham. Just generic accent but no, no, I’m from Nottingham. So not seems right in the Midlands, the UK. So it’s about 130 miles north of London.

How’s everybody excited about the World Cup there? Is that a big deal there in Britain?

Oh, yeah, definitely. Definitely. With, especially with Brazil, now being knocked out, it just makes it a little bit easier for us. So yeah. Exciting times.

Yeah, yeah. My brother in law came over last week. And he’s a bit no matter what sport it is. He’s watching it on TV. He’s one of those guys. And

you’re not gonna escape it over here. That’s for sure.

Yeah. And I so he got me watching. You know that he actually watched the Brazil game. And it’s kind of cool. I never really paid much attention to we call it soccer over here. But it’s kind of cool. Because it’s nonstop. It’s it’s constant. Go on that I just never really realized it.

Oh, we got into football or soccer. stuff with a vote cool, because it’s the best bet. So yeah, definitely. If you couldn’t get one of those teams.

Yeah. Yeah. We cool. So let’s, let’s talk about you, man. Enough about soccer. So you’re, you’re an HVAC tech. So just let the audience know, I found Alex, I was watching a bunch of his videos. And I go, man, I think my audience would like to hear from this guy. And you had some really engaging videos. You could Good job, man.

Oh, appreciate it. Yeah, appreciate it. Good feedback. So first caveat always that is you’ll often refer to myself as engineers, where that term, especially in this country is used a lot more loose. It is I think, over there because you offers as technicians, and some an engineer, someone with a degree is more, more loosely of here, I’d say. So often, I’ll be referred to as an engineer and refer myself as an engineer, but I’ve not been used to university to get an engineering degree. So it’s just a bit more of a loose term to describe a technician. So if I just if so, throughout this conversation, if I describe myself as an engineer, it’s just a terminology difference. That’s all. Yeah, so that happens a lot. So when I left school at the age of 16, and I went to college, originally to do plumbing. And it was a one year course at college. And after that, you would find a job. And you would have learned the theory side of plumbing. And then you would do a portfolio to get your qualification in plumbing NVQ Level two, I couldn’t find a job plumbing nobody was taking on. And it was, it was at that time back in 2006, where plumbers were going to be making 1000s and 1000s of pounds. So everybody wants to be plumbers. So it was a bit difficult to get a job being a plumber. But I worked with a chap whose brother owned air conditioning company. So I went for an interview with them. And that was it, started working with them. And then I got sent to college to do my NVQ Level Two and Three qualifications in air conditioning and refrigeration. Work with that company for quite a few years. And it was all big new construction, constant building sites, just installing day in day out. So over here, our market is very different. We don’t have this the same domestic market as you guys do. So predominantly, all our AC is what you would describe as ductless. So they are these systems, VRF systems and splits, whether it’s twin splits, triple splits or whatever. And then you get big air handling units with DX coils in there, but often connected to an AC unit. There’s some differences, but that’s predominantly what the sort of kit is. So I pretty much was installing VRV units for many years. And then 2008 happened, the big crash. That company sort of limped on for a couple of more years. And then in 2012 started at a company that I’ve just previously left and was with that company over 10 years and moved on more of a Nervous breakdown. Roll. And then I’ve just now started a new company, which is a little bit more office based, bit more project manager based. And that’s that’s pretty much it. I’ve been doing it what feels like a very long time. Maybe not that long to others. It’s only probably only 16 years. But with all the overtime, it probably feels about 30. Yeah.

So I want to rewind a little bit. So when you got out of so they have high school we call high school here. So your normal. Okay, so when you are getting ready to graduate high school, you mentioned that you went to college? So do they have? Do they have trade school, college? And then regular college? What? Explain that a little bit.

So yeah, so again, terminology difference, so that many moons ago when I was at school, you would leave school at 16. That’s no longer the case you’re in school till at so Okay, let’s go to 18. You you, you’d either go get a job, or you would go to college, and you would do your what’s called your A levels, or you could do a vocational course, which would be as a trade effectively or a qualification in hairdressing or whatever. If you wanted to go to university, you would do your A levels, and then you would apply for university afterwards. Right. Okay. So I think the college terminology is just slightly different over here. That’s all right. So I imagine me doing AC refrigeration would be the equivalent of you to go into a trade school

trade school. Yep. Yep, that’s exactly right. So what was the deciding factor for you, instead of going to university to, you know, be an accountant or, you know, computer programmer, whatever, versus going into the trades? What was your mindset at that time when you got out of your, your school at 16, or now 18.

So when I left school, I thought, I don’t want to go to college, I don’t want to go do my own, I don’t want to go to college. Even though I ended up going to college, I didn’t really want to do it, I wanted to start earning money. I’m also dyslexic. So the thought of effectively, a couple more years of stuck in a classroom was not appealing to me whatsoever. I also wanted to trade, like at the time, I wanted to plug in trade, because that was the big thing. Right? I believe, especially in this country, nobody grows up wanting to be an air conditioning engineer. Because it’s this hidden industry. Right? It’s just in the background, nobody really knows about it. So you either know somebody’s already doing it, or you fall into it. And that’s pretty much how I fell into it. So again, I wanted to duplicate them, and 1000s of 1000s pounds, the W was taken off. And it just so happens I was working with a guy during the holidays, who was doing a bit of problem in that his background was air conditioning. And he says, Well, what do you plan to do in this? It’s a bit bit of a bit of plumbing, bit of electrical, a bit of everything. So I thought, Great, I’ll get into that.

Yeah, that’s that, you know, we have a very similar history because I’m moderately dyslexic as well. And I fell into the trades. Well, a long time ago, I’m going on 40 years. And in that’s how I, I ended up going into trades. Because you know, the amount of reading that you have to do in our college, which the way we do it, here’s we have, you know, you go to regular, you have grammar school, middle school, high school, high school ends, at 18. And you know, supposedly right around that time, you’re an adult, whatever, whatever that is. And usually around 1718, when you’re getting ready to graduate from high school is when there’s that pressure, what am I going to do? Am I going to go into the trades? Or am I going to go into a four year college? What am I going to do? You know? And so,

I think I mean, especially when I was 16, there was a huge amount of pressure from schools to effectively you have to make your mind up then are you going to go to college and university? Are you going to get a trade? Are you just going to go and get a job. And it’s this sort of mentality that someone that between the ages of 16 and 18 are going to know what they want to do for the rest of their life. And that’s quite a lot of pressure to put on a young adult. I mean, there’s a lot of people I know in the 40s and 50s They’re still not sure what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

Yeah, that’s exactly was there very much pressure like Like, does your what we call high school? Do they have like counselors that kind of try and steer you into certain things does that does that happen over there?

If I think he doesn’t some schools, my particular school, they had a bit of a sort of a jobs fair sort of thing. So various colleges and universities would come in, and basically say, this is this is what we do. But I would have to say, there was a real push to go to university in this, this this mentality is you’re only going to make money if you go to university. Right. But you’re going to be in 1000s of pounds worth of debt doing it. Right. And it’s, there wasn’t much there visual things of what the trade can offer. When I was at school, it was it was more of a case that, like I say, university is your best bet. So unless you were actively looking at what other opportunities there were, it was just this sort of narrow tunnel of that’s the only way you can go.

Yeah, yeah, it’s the same thing here. You know, do you have you ever heard like, roughly how much, let’s say, somebody over in Britain, they go to, they go to college, a university, and they get their degree, and whatever. I know, it depends on the degree, but what kind of debt load, you know, once they graduate, and they actually graduate from university with a science degree or communications degree, or whatever it is, what kind of debt load do these people have come in, coming out of college or university?

So college is, so when I was at college, it was free for under 20 ones. So when I did plumbing for a year, that was free, and when I did my three years of college doing refrigeration air condition, that was also free. And it’s also free, if you’ve got for any age, if you’ve got a company under 30 employees as well. Because I was looking at a fellow colleague who really wants to get into that side of it. So I had a chat with one of the college’s and basically, as long as from the top of my head, if it’s less than 30 employees, it’s free doesn’t matter what age University. My brother did a graphic design degree and think he’s in something around top of that about 35,000 pounds worth of debt with that.

So 35,000 pounds is $42,893. Us. So that’s, yeah, that’s probably about comparable with what it is over here. And especially, I mean, that for that type of a degree. If you’re going to be a graphics designer or computer coder over here. You’re looking at yeah, pretty close to $50,000 in in debt coming out. Now, if you’re a doctor, or something like that, it’s it gets up into hundreds of 1000s of US dollars. Yeah. Kind of nuts.

It’s a lot of money.

Yeah. Well, cool. So what? What’s going on? So why did you change jobs? Did you just feel like you kind of outgrew the place you worked with? For? Because it looks like here that you were there for what? About 10 years? And then recently, just like this month, you you you went to work for a new place. You started describing that? What was the main reason why you jumped way, way way.

So this is actually I’ve just completed my first week at this company. So the previous company I’ve worked for, rather bizarrely actually used to be American owned back in the 50s. Yeah, it’s got a bit of a strange history, but it never started off as an aircraft company actually started off working aeroplanes. It very convoluted history. But yeah, so this this company, feel there was the company, brilliant little company, it was never had an issue. But I quickly sort of, after about five or six years realized there was no way forward through this company for me to progress. I was already the lead engineer on the AC side. And there wasn’t going to be any options of moving into more office based role. And it’s not necessarily so there’s a sort of mentality where you seem to put your best engineers or technicians in the office and think they’re going to make everybody else as good as you were. That does not happen.

It never happens. Trust me.

So there was no way for me to go and to be honest, I started sort of lose a bit of love of this in industry which I really do enjoy my job, and I enjoy the industry, I think it’s a fantastic industry. So I was losing a little bit of an interest in it. And I was a bit of a crossroads of what to do. And I was seriously considering being a subcontractor. And I was going to give it another two more years. So my youngest daughter, she’s in nursery, which is 1000 pounds a month. So I thought, wait until nursery, and then go it alone and see what happens, anything to lose. And the last three, four months, I’ve just been doing videos on LinkedIn, and Instagram. And I was approached by a few people. But I’m sort of right now I’ve got my plan set in stone, that’s what I’m going to do. And then I was offered by another local company, based in Nottingham. And they basically said, you won’t have to do any more work in a way you won’t have to do any more night work. And it’s all nice, local work fair. So you’re not traveling four hours to a job and four hours back, and the pay is slightly better. And we want you part in the office part on the road, we want to try and give you more responsibility. And most importantly, try and improve the skill sets of the people that are working there on the tools and bring them up with that apprentice that started, help him get through college and learning more and more things on the tools. So there’s a more of a sort of a teaching aspect to it. Which I really enjoy. I’m an apprentice for quite a few years now. But it’s something I really enjoy about about this industry, that there’s not many other industries that you can have one to one training every single day compared to any trade. And that’s what I enjoy so much about this industry is is you can teach someone, every little bit of information, you know, all the useless and useful bits that you know. And that’s such a fantastic thing. So hopefully that this, this new job will give me that ability to do that.

So the job that you left, what was the mix of the market they were doing? Was it mostly residential and commercial? Or what was the kind of the mix that you were doing before?

So it was the company did a very few other things. But the AC side is mainly commercial. We the company looked after a lot of particular types of supermarket, based in the UK. And it was pretty much nationwide. We didn’t really do Scotland, but we did Wales and England, minus a few areas. So it was all over the country effectively. And we’d work at a quite a few industrial places as well. Working on chillers, a little bit of refrigeration, but not much. But it was mainly up all these on your split.

Okay. Yeah. Because you touched on that. So there’s not really like the residential market that there is here. I guess that makes sense. Because your, your climate, there tends to be a little more cooler, you don’t have like, you know, like we do down in the southern United States where, you know, there’s places down there that they could go weeks or even months, you know, not going below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

You know, no, no, I mean, it’s that thing is, is the UK is a third the size of Texas. Which is which, wherever where you think about it, how small or how big the United States is, is quite hard to comprehend. Yeah, so we effectively pretty much have one climate zone and it’s, it’s cool and a bit wet, and then gets occasionally warm in the summertime. So no, we do not have anywhere near the domestic market that you guys do. It’s a market that is slowly growing. Because domestic market AC has always been about look luxury things and luxury items. That obviously we achieved 40 degrees back in August, which is unheard of that their summers are getting warmer. So it’s something that’s becoming more and more demanded in the domestic market. And there’s some people that make a very good living out of just purely doing domestic installs and domestic work. But previous company that was a very small aspect of it, I would probably do maybe two or three domestic install. In a year, this new company I’m working for because of COVID. And everybody was on furlough at home. So during during the whole COVID thing, what they did over here is everybody pretty much went on furlough unless you’re a key worker, ie if you work in a supermarket nurse place or that sort of stuff, but You’d be paid 80% of your salary. So people were still getting paid, that sat at home. Some people weren’t home, obviously, it’s a bit hard to install aircon units well working from home. But so a lot of people had quite a bit disposable income. So people started investing in well, I’ve got a home office now I want air conditioning. So the domestic market grew quite quickly during COVID. And it’s maintaining now. So it’s something that people are lessons and luxury items, but more is in necessity. So the domestic market is definitely definitely growing.

Yeah. What do they do for heating over there? Do they have gas or? Or do they use heat?

So the traditional form of heating in most domestic properties in this country is often to go to central heating or hydronics. So you would have a boiler that would either feed just your radiators around your house and your hot water. Okay, well, so there’s a huge push in this country and in Europe to go to heat pumps air source heat pumps do hot water. And that’s a massively growing market. Yeah. They will ban gas it is, it is I think it’s the the next five or 10 years, I can’t remember off the top my head, were no new, it might even be shorter that no new domestic properties will have gas. It will be heat pumps.

Interesting. So if you want to be in just refrigeration, you wanted to be in, you know, servicing refrigeration, the key markets over there to be able to get into that is going to be commercial, industrial, because they always need that supermarkets and big, you know, refrigerated warehouses and office buildings and stuff like that those that’s the niches there that guys like you could flourish, right?

Yeah. There is a huge demand in refrigeration engineers. But there’s a huge demand in all trades, to be honest, refrigeration is severely sought after, along with electricians, plumbers, and normal AC engineers. Where Australia is in a very similar situation where they’re in huge demand. And it is a constant battle of they keep poaching engineers from over here and we keep poaching engineers from over there. So patients it can be easily transferred as well as in New Zealand and I think Canada, but I’m not too sure. So that NVQ if you’ve got that over here is easily transferable qualification. I don’t believe that’s the same with the US. I think you have to reapply for your qualification.

Yeah. So your new your new opportunity where you’re at now this company just started at? It sounds like a great thing. So you do you like teaching? Did you like that role of bringing up these these young pups and and teaching them on the ropes? Is that is that part of your personality? Do you have a heart of a teacher?

I don’t know I enjoy it. I really do enjoy it. And whether many good days is it might be different thing. I mean, I’ve had I’ve had four apprentices since in the last 16 years. One left or the when the the previous company back in 2008. When that when that finished, he went off and worked with another guy for a couple of years, but he’s no longer in the industry. So that one didn’t work out too. Well. My last apprentice, he went out on his own for a couple years it was it was pretty good guy to be honest. But he’s completely left the industry again. So that one didn’t work out too. Well. My third apprentice, absolutely brilliantly lovely lad. Again, he got sick of all the long, long days and working away so he left industry. And on the last apprentice, a chap called Alex. Absolutely brilliant. He’s still doing it is a senior engineer at another company. He did a level two is a two year course he did that one year, and then did his level three in one year. Absolutely brilliant guy. So one out of four is not bad, but particularly good record but yeah, well for but yeah, I really do enjoy it.

I mean, I feel

for apprentices because it’s the luck of the draw who you end up working with, yes, you can move around different engineers. But if you work at a particular small company and the person you’re working with isn’t a particularly good teacher or has a particular stressful workload and might not be able to give you the time to teach every little thing. It’s not easy, but it’s also Not so easy on the engineer that possibly didn’t have that time to pass on all the information they can?

Well, Alex, you got to understand that the, your success, one out of four is not bad. But that your your success as a as a teacher and believe me, the industry needs people like you is has a lot to do with the company environment, it has a lot to do with that. And you can have an excellent teacher that’s in a, you know, a company culture. And I’m not saying that that was at your company, the last year prior company, but it has to be kind of a perfect alignment, it has to be a company that’s supportive of internal development. And then it also has to be the individuals that you assigned to bring up the new generation have to be have to like to teach, and then has to do to with the individual, which you have no control over. I mean, if these guys, you know, they got somebody has a growing family, and they’re, you know, they’re hearing it at home about being out during the summertime or whatever, you know, 18 hours and 24 hours, that that’s tough on relationships, and some relationships just don’t survive that. So, you know, the tech has to change industries, you know, you have no control over that stuff.

No, it’s one of those is you’ve got to have everything sorted align all at once to get the best outcome. I mean, we we have a real shortage of people coming into this industry anyway, I always, I always see it as a hidden industry, especially in this country, because you don’t have the domestic market. It’s just it’s there in the background. So when you walk into a nice shop, it’s nice and cool. Because of other stuff that you don’t think about it. When you have electricians and you have plumbers Well, you have lights and you have sinks at home. So you know, you know already know those industries when you’re in school. So that’s what if you’re gonna go to a trade, that’s what you push is your electricians, you plumbers, your painters, decorators, all that sort of stuff. For AC and refrigeration is just this other thing that nobody knows. So you have less people coming in. As, so you don’t have young people going, actually now want to be an ACL refrigeration engineer, because those people come in and who want to do something, or more engaging to learn, especially in this country, we have a real situation where because you either fall into it, or you get in it because you know somebody the issues when you know somebody in it, you’re not necessarily giving it your all because this job has possibly been already handed to you. So the enthusiasm to learn more enthusiasm to or can ever go at this, what does that do? Ask questions get involved, sometimes can be less. And I’ve definitely seen it with apprentice coming in who effectively have been given the job because their dad’s one of the managers or something like that. And yeah, necessarily get used as him and that, that drive of Yes, right away, I want to be an install engineer. And then I want to go on to service it and all that sort of stuff, they don’t see a path forward, they just see it as a job. And I can’t fault any, any technical engineer that just sees it as an as a job, then that’s fair enough. If that’s all you want to do in Latin, that’s fair enough. But I think it’s such a missed opportunity of how many different things especially in this industry, you can go into a new, which is why I love this industry so much. I think it’s so important to get young people in because at the end of the day, we’re so reliant on young people, as we get older, that I want younger people to do all the really difficult jobs I don’t like doing in this industry, so I don’t have to do them. So I need them to do those jobs.

Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. So you mentioned this a few times. And I want to delve into this because we’re having the same problem over here in the States is finding people. How much of a shortage is there? Like, like, Do you have any idea like, you know, well, let me ask you this. Let’s say somebody goes to college, they’re for trade, then they graduate, like you did with HVAC refrigeration degree, do they pretty much have their pick on where they want to go to work is pretty much all the businesses out there hiring constantly, or what’s the what’s the opportunity environment as far as getting placed once you put in the work to get educated in refrigeration?

So the the main ways of getting in is so how I did it, I started at a company and they decided right we’re going to send you off to college to get this NVQ so it gives you that basic understanding of how systems work, diagnose and all that sort of stuff. Once you’ve got that qualification. You are then a Air quotes, a qualified engineer doesn’t necessarily matter that you can do the job or not, it’s just you’ve got this piece of paper that says you’ve got a certain basic understanding. The other method is if like I did when my plumbing, I left school, went to college and got this, they call it a technical certificate. So it means you have a basic theory, understanding that you have no on site job experience. So when I was at college for three years, it was blocked release. So I, I stayed away. So three, four weeks time, three times a year, I would stay. If this was in Grimsby, Grimsby college, I would stay there for four weeks, three times a year. And it was half well, at theory, theory based and then 20%, practical, and then I would you have SAT exams, portfolios to fill out and then when you’re actually back back at work back on the tools, you would have a series of job write ups, and you’d have to hit certain criteria, anything from health and safety to safety management to working in working anything, I suppose from how your roots are going to go pipework routes, install, fixing things, lots of and you would have to write a big job sheet up and hit the criteria. And that will get assessed. And then you’d have effectively your technical certificate, which was all your college based off, and your full NVQ, which included jobs you cited for failure. So normally, when you’re going through that process, like I did is because you already have a job. If I was if I had gone straight to college and done, just the technical certificate side, I couldn’t finish the portfolio because I would need a company to work for so I would have to then find a company to take me on to do the actual portfolios, right?

Okay, but you

can only do your level two, that way, you wouldn’t be able to move on to your level three until you’ve completed your level two, by completing in level two, you’d have to find a company to work for. So by doing level three, you would already be working for another company.

So it’s sort of like there’s a kind of a partnership between the educational system and the market. Right. So yeah. Okay, that makes it. So okay, let’s, let’s take the story a little bit further. So let’s say, let’s say you’ve been working for the same company for 10 years, you got all your certifications, and you’re, you’re down the road a little bit. How, what’s the difficulty level for an experienced seasoned tech like you? If you want to change companies? Is it is it pretty much you’ve got to pick of ones you can hire? Or they’re willing to hire you? What’s the difficulty on finding a job? Should somebody wants to change change companies there?

If you’d have asked me about five years ago, I would have I would have said, I It’s probably quite difficult. But when she was in the process of looking for other jobs, I was actually quite surprised with the amount of people that contacted me going with it, you’d be a perfect fit at our place, we would offer you this, this and this. So it’s probably much easier than then you think it is, I thought it’d be quite a difficult process. But there’s a lot more jobs out there for any AC engineer have any skill level than that there is AC engineers out there. So it really is a market that the engineer, the technician has the power, because there is a shortage a real shortage in this country. So it’s probably much easier than people realize that you can just go out of one job straight into another. So which is should be

Yeah, no, you’re right. It’s how it is here. What just wanted to find out, what did you do to to start generating that interest? I know you put a lot of videos out there. I mean, was social media helpful to you, when you when you really started seriously looking for a new position? How did you go about doing that? Did you what was your tricks to get more interested?

To be honest, I started the social media stuff because I was working on a big, horrible, nasty chiller. And it was under pressure testing it and I was just I was giving it a couple of hours to make sure it wasn’t dropping. And I was a little bit bored. So I just did a quick video on how to I think it was how to compensate for temperature and pressure testing. And then I got some good feedback. I thought, Oh, well, I’ll just do a few more. Because I’ve got no apprentice to annoy with useful and useless Information, I might as well just tell everybody else and my useless information. So I set up the Instagram, I think I had a LinkedIn from a couple of years ago, which which I never used. And I just slowly built, built it up. It was definitely more than LinkedIn things because that’s more of a professional industry, side of it. And it was, it was just simple videos of why maintenance is really important. If you’re working on this particular manufacturer of equipment, if you want to put it in recovery mode, these the buttons, you press, I mean, it’s all simple stuff. And there’s lots of stuff to be fair is you combine the same sort of videos online, it was nothing, nothing really different. It seemed to gain a little bit of traction. That was all. Yeah, it was mainly to manage myself because I had no one else to Wafula basically. Yeah, well, plus

two. I mean, when you were looking for work, the first thing is HR managers do is they’ll they’ll pull up your your social media, and they probably said, wow, this guy, he’s given back and he’s got the right attitude, and I want to hire that guy. That’s what I

thought he never does any work. He’s just always doing videos.

No, there is a lot of downtime, you know, I, or what I used to call windshield time there. There’s a lot of time where, you know, especially if you’re covering a large area, there is a lot of boredom, period, you know, you’re you’re evacuating a system and it’s cold outside and your your system, your evacuation systems just kind of hanging out not doing much. And you got to get to fill that time with something.

Well, that’s it. Yeah, definitely. Yeah, fill the time while it’s on back, go get yourself a coffee and do a video of why it’s so important to do it. But do it when you’re not in the rain sort of thing. But that’s sort of how it started. That hour, just wanted to jump back regarding some of the qualifications. So in this country, there’s a lot of engineers that don’t go to go to college. And the effectively the bare minimum is what’s called your F gas. And that base is your safe handling of refrigerants. And that is a basic qualification that lets you handle refrigerants. There’s a couple of different categories. But the one that most people have is category one, and that effectively lets you basically handle refrigerant, you physically put refrigerant lines. So there is a big, there’s a lot of engineers out there who have never been to college, but they have that F gas and that F gaslights the qualifications used all over Europe. So it’s, we we do have, I wouldn’t say an issue with a lot of guys not going to college. Because I think a lot of the time it’s not needed, I think it’s dependent on what you are doing in the industry, if that is needed or not. That’s effectively the bare minimum you need in this industry.

Yeah. So I want to move ahead on to another subject. So I interviewed a lot of tax a lot of people that are in the industry. And when I get a chance to have, you know, real in depth conversation with them. There’s there’s three areas that are a particular challenge for people that are in skilled trades. And in no particular order. The first one is work life balance, and you kind of touched on this a little bit. You know, there’s been a couple of technicians that you’ve, you’ve trained and you know, they’ve moved on. Commonly, somebody’s having a industry change has to do with as you grow older and your family grows and things like that work life balance gets to be a real challenge. The next one is finances. Now, what I mean by that is over here in the States, you know, somebody who goes into skilled trades, and it doesn’t matter if it’s HVAC, refrigeration, plumbers, whatever it is, and any of the of the skilled trades over here. They don’t teach financial financial habits in our high schools anymore. They don’t teach that they used to have this class called Home Economics and they, they teach you the basics about budgeting and about money management. And the challenge for these skilled tradesmen here in the States is they they start making some serious money, they don’t have any debt because they you know, they don’t have a school loan for the most part. So money management is is a challenge. So work life balance, money management, and then the other one has to do with skill development. A lot of technicians have a tendency to get sore have stuck. They get pigeonholed where, you know, this guy does residential, he’s a good installer, and this guy’s a good service guy. But there’s, they get stale. And I think you kind of touched on that when you the previous company, you were at no fault to that company, but you’re feeling kind of stuck. So that there seems to be a lack of evolution of you know, what you should do to, to grow your technical excellence, if you will. So, work life balance, money management, or money, money understanding and then technical excellence. Which one do you think is? How would you prioritize those? Are they just not an issue over there?

So work life balance. I mean, my wife’s probably a better one to ask than that, than I am. I mean, yes, work life balance is a difficult one, especially, I mean, in most trades, but particularly this one. So my first company that I worked for, as, as a 18 year old lad, it was brilliant, because I was working all over the country. I’ve I’ve worked in Paris and Belfast. And it was brilliant. Because it’s all new construction, you sort of I mean, the latest should finishes by six o’clock. And then you’d go out of the town, and you’d go out with the electrician from the site, the plumbers from the site, and it was absolutely brilliant. And then older, and those hangovers lasts longer, and it’s harder to do your work when you’ve had a skinful the night before. And then you you meet someone and it gets more and more difficult. And I would spend, I spent a year away from home. One, one job. And that was the Harry Potter studios where they filmed a lot of the Harry Potter stuff, right. And I was there for a year. And again, I’d be six months, so somewhere else. And that was difficult. And then I joined the previous company I’ve just left. And it was no more working away for a long period of time. So I thought brilliant. But I was traveling a lot more, I would still do the occasional night away or the week away. But I was I was leaving the house at four o’clock in the morning, and I wasn’t getting back at 10 o’clock. And that wasn’t really any better. I was probably better off doing the work in a way that was much more night work. And for me, I go into when I’m when I’m working away, or I’m doing as I stay in work mode until I’m home. Yeah, so I’ve become so focused on that, I probably are not as good as a communicator to my friends or family as I should be. Because for me to get through those long hours, I need to be in work mode and think about work. So it’s always going to be so much harder than the people sat at home. Not sure what time you can be home or waiting for you waiting on that Friday evening to get through the door and you finish work. I mean, I’ve met a lot of engineers that take work home with them. I’ve always been fortunate habits as soon as I’m home. Work is at least on my mind. And that’s it. For when I’m at work, I’m stuck on full work mode. So when my wife goes, Do you know what time you can be home for dinner? No idea because I’m at work until this job is finished. I cannot tell you. Yeah, so. And when I’ve when I finally came up with all the reasons why I wanted to leave that company. And one of the big selling points for me is it’s local work. So the most I’m a hour away from home. So the worst I’m getting is six o’clock, you might have the occasional bad day where you’re having a bit later but I’m seeing the kids in the morning when I leave work rather than leaving before they get up and get home after the they’ve gone to bed because I might as well be working away in their house because I’m not seeing them. So it’s it’s important it’s it gets more for me got more and more important as as, as I start to get a family, young children, my priorities changed or shifted, it wasn’t necessarily about earning as much money as I could. It was more about actually I’m comfortable that I want to I need to spend more time with the kids because they’re only little for a very short period of time. Right? That’s that’s where my focus when regarding finances and stuff like that. It’s pretty much the same over here. You we had something similar to home economics, but that’s pretty much it. So there wasn’t anything really about budgeting or what you should do with if you came across a big lump sum of money you’ve been in Betty How to Invest it what to do with it and stuff like that. So no, there’s not really anything like that at all. I don’t know whether that’s more of a push down in schools. Now. I don’t know it’s been a long time since I was at school but there’s certainly nothing like that when when I was at school. Sort of development I think really it’s depends what kind Pretty much the first ever company was an install company never did any servicing, no real breakdowns. So it was you install, and you might move into sort of a project manager role. That’s it, there was no real progression any other way. Second company again, the reason I left is because I very quickly started that company, I became their senior engineer on the AC side. And there was going to be nope, the only way I progressed is if my direct line manager had retired. And as he was only 10 years older than me, unless he was going to win the lottery, that was not going to happen anytime soon. Not necessarily the particular job that I wanted, what he did. So that’s what I very quickly became, right, I’ll go self employed, because at that particular time, I thought, I don’t see any progression forward, I would have always loved to work for a manufacturer.

Whether whether that actually panned

out, until until you do that role, you don’t know whether you’re really going to love it or not. It’s just that thing I think you go through, that’s the ultimate goal working for a manufacturer, whether it is or not, no, maybe that’s something in future, I don’t know. But with this new tool, and the more possible teaching side of it, and the learning more of the office side of it, I think I can see a future I can see a logical progression forward of where I want to be the next 510 years. And to be fair, I feel more confident now that if that doesn’t pan out, there are more avenues available to me that I at least try but not work out. But I can at least try them.

Yeah, and I think you made a smart move, Alex, I really do. Because, you know, the fact is, when you’re working in service, I know a lot of guys did that they they started driving a truck, and they stayed in that truck till they retired. The biggest complaint that I get is that their bodies just you know what, when you’re in your 20s, and your login, you know, 24 foot extension ladders around or your, you know, how can a five ton compressor up on a roof or something like that? You know, you do stuff you don’t even think about it. But, man, when you’re kneeling down to work on a roof unit or piece of refrigeration equipment, when you’re in your 50s your knees really start talking to you?

Oh, yes. My knees are met my friends.

Yeah, you know, so you made a smart move. And that, you know, you’re you’re leveraging your brain assets, because you got all this experience. And, you know, you’re you’re gonna, ultimately you’ll be able to stay in the trade a lot longer. Because you’re not being so abusive of your body, you know?

No, and I think this is part of the problem when when, especially when young people come into it, that there’s not this sort of conversation where you really need to look after yourself. I mean, you kind of revert of when you’re in your 20s, I can carry two Nigerian bottles at once I can I can lift this unit single handedly. No, you’re not, you’re not showing off to me, I don’t care which you can carry, but your body will care the next few years. And because this if you especially if you’re sort of an install guy that, you know, if you’re, that’s fine. If you’re happy installing, that’s fine. But as you get older, that installing becomes harder and harder. And if you have an injury where it really affects your day to day, then where are you going to go from that? Because if you can’t install that you’re used to, or you can’t install it at all, unless you have a bit of a technical mind. You can go into something like that. But if you don’t, then I don’t really know what the you know what, where you can go with that. And there’s been a few guys that I’ve worked with have been in the 60s. And they I mean, fair play to them to you know, carry on installing in really cold, wet, windy weather, and they’re still they’re still doing the job. But they’re hurting. You can see him hurting. And yeah. I don’t wish that on anybody.

Yeah. Alex, what? What’s the maximum wage out there? In pounds? I assume they pay most of the technicians hourly, correct?

Yes. So that most of most of its hourly rate. So the average salary in the UK is between is about 38,000 which I think is about 46 and a half $1,000

Yeah, that’s 46 Five Yeah. 46,000

are in mind, obviously, the cost of living, I believe is lower in the UK than it is in the US. So that will probably affect the number somewhat. But the average air conditioning wage in this country is between 32 and 42,000 pounds, which I think equates to about 39 to 51,000. Us

30,000 pounds, I’ve got a little converter here is 38,000 pounds is 46,005 70 annually.

Yeah, that’s that’s the UK average, AC average is 32 to 42. But there’s I know plenty. I mean, if you’re a subcontractor that’s completely different. I mean, those guys isn’t gonna know so well. If you’re if you’re a subcontractor. Well, the deficits were not the definition. But the terminology over here, if you’re a subcontractor as a one man band, so I could go on my own, I could sub to other companies, my previous company, or I could work directly for the client. So obviously, they charge a lot more because they’re paying for their own fuel tools, insurances, all that sort of stuff. Those guys can charge. Yeah, yeah, pretty much. Yeah. So those guys, I mean, they can name the price. I mean, they’re, they’re running anywhere between 405 100 pounds a day, depending where they’re working. So you can earn a lot of money doing it that way. But your normal guy, it’s working for a company, it’s about between 32 and 42,000 pounds.

So okay, so you mentioned cost of living. So I because what I tried to do, I don’t know if you have this problem in the UK, but we have a huge problem over here. Because the there’s a lot of competition. So back to the original conversation we had early on about these young people getting out of high school, at 1819 years old. They’re getting pressure, sometimes from their parents, definitely from the schools that you know, if you want to, if you want to do anything with your life, you have to go get a four year degree. I mean, that’s the messaging, a lot of them have anyway. And a lot of the information that is being told here in the US about wages that have to do with skilled trades, is put out by the government and the cop, the high school counselors, because they have counselors in our high schools here. They all use the federal data to, to share with the kids and the parents of what skilled trades are compared to college educated people. Anyway, the problem over here is the numbers are screwed up. They’re not right. So the reality of it is, is that I’m gonna give an example. So the, the Bureau of Labor Statistics that’s here in the US, that’s a government entity that does this, you know, I’m pulling a number from the air, but it’s kind of gives you an idea, they may say, you know, 32,000 to $35,000 us is about what you’re gonna make? Well, the reality of it is, it’s twice that. And when I dug into it, I found that the information that the federal government, they’re their ways of gathering in the information is flawed. So the data, they’re not trying to, they’re not trying to mislead us, it’s just the data that they’re using to create their numbers is incorrect. So my whole point is reason why I went off on that tangent, is that that’s one of the problems we have here in the US of getting people interested in skilled trades, is because the it’s out there that you just can’t make much money, which is just wrong, you know. So I know people here that are making well over $100,000 us a year well over that.

Yeah, I mean, does. Does that number reflect overtime? Or is that a basic rate number that you have over there?

That’s the basic rate number. Yeah. So but it’s still low. It’s still low. So okay, so let’s say you’re making 38,000 pounds a year in UK? What kind of a lifestyle does that afford you to live in? Are you looking at you can afford to buy a house? Vacation, that kind of thing?

Yeah, I mean, the housing market is a complete different, scary question. Anyway. Mortgage rates and everything. Yeah, you know, you’re on 38 40,000 Then they’re new, depending on where you live. I mean, London is a different animal. But if you’re, if you’re outside of London, then yeah, you can get yourself a reasonable property. I mean, I don’t know, any AC engineer that’s not doing overtime. So the chances are that you’re going to be on sort of the more the high end number. So yeah, you’re gonna have, you’re gonna you can have your own your own property. Or, I mean, you can, I mean, I bought my first house when I was 24. So it’s certainly doable. I mean, that was obviously a few years back. But it’s more and more difficult now with with the rise of inflation and the rise of house prices. But yeah, it’s certainly a comfortable lifestyle. Yeah, you certainly getting on your holidays. I mean, if you stick a couple of kids in there, that gets a little bit more difficult.


can ever afford kids?

Yeah, no kidding, huh? So hey, before we wrap things up, I want to ask you a couple of questions to help the audience out there. So what what would you what message? Would you get out there, Alex, to maybe parents of kids that are getting ready to graduate from what I call high school? That are they’re trying to decide, you know, should we? What’s a better way to go trades or going to a four year college? I mean, what advice would you give to those people that are trying to make those decisions right now?

The first thing I would say is, forget this mentality where, oh, my child is not very academic. So I’ll put him through a trade school. I don’t know where this mentality is coming from. It’s not a second rate. career path, you know, and there’s that mentality as well, you know, I don’t think he’ll do well at university. So just let’s get him a trade and they’re about to earn a living, I think that’s an auto ridiculous mentality. So get rid of that mentality completely. I think it’s, I think, I don’t think kids because they are kids at that age, when I was 18 years old, growing up being not, you can’t expect somebody at that age, to know what they want to do for their son life. So give them the tools. So whatever they do decide to do when they’re older in their 20s 30s 40s, or even 50s. So they’ve got the ability to have a good, exciting life when they are young. And if that’s if that’s a trade, then brilliant, I can’t recommend this trade enough, because of the amount of different things you get you get into I mean, even if you’re doing basic install, it was nothing basic about it, but you’re doing plumbing, you’re doing electrics, you’re doing duct work, there’s so many little things you’re doing. And it’s a fantastic trade to get into. But yeah, the first thing is definitely get get out of this mentality of is this sort of secondary idea that you know, if that doesn’t work out, let’s do this. And engage with them find out what they find, enjoy what their hobbies are. I mean, for me, they always want the easiest way to find out if you think you’ve got a good apprentices, what are their hobbies? Oh, I like working on my dad’s car. Brilliant. Brilliant, because you’re already have got a mechanical mindset. That’s exactly what we need. If things aren’t I want to mess around with electrics and I like doing that circuits and stuff like that. Great electricians, the way to go it find out what they’re interested in outside of your normal school stuff. But I think the biggest thing is get rid of this pressure on adults to figure out what they want to do for the rest of life. Give them the tools they need, whether that’s financial tools of what to do plan with your money. But I don’t think that the pressure should be there. I think we should give them the tools they need to succeed in life. A job can come after that.

Very good. That’s a great takeaway. So the second part of that question is, so let’s say you have a technician who’s in skilled trades, and they’re feeling a little burnout. You know, they’re, they’re feeling stuck. And they’re thinking about, you know, I don’t see this going anywhere. And maybe they might be a little bit discouraged, for whatever reason, and they’re thinking about getting out of skilled trades. What what, what words of wisdom, would you share with that individual?

Um, I mean, I pretty much was that individual. I think the biggest thing for me was engaging with other people. And finding out which bit of the industry I particularly enjoyed and what I loved about it and tried to move back to that. No might be a case that your current employer can’t give you those opportunities. And I completely understand that it’s a scary thing when you’ve been somewhere for a long period of time making Do not jump to either a new company or a new division or something new. I mean, I’m a grown man. But it was still a daunting task for me to leave a company after 10 years. But it’s getting back to what bits of the trade off because it doesn’t, there’s plenty of things that are mundane or boring that your day to day working can be. But it’s trying to find those things that you do enjoy and try to focus on. If you want to carry on those things, or try new things in this industry. So if you just solely do install that you really like quite like the idea of chillers. If your company doesn’t do that, speak to chiller companies explain the situation. So this is this is what I do. But I want to move into it. The worst they’re going to say is no, we’re not going to take you on that you won’t know until you ask to speak to other chiller guys, social media for all its bad things. Some of it’s really good that you can speak to people that are already doing the jobs that you possibly may want to get involved in and talk to them about it you might find Well, actually, I don’t fancy doing cheers after talking to so and so. So I think the biggest thing is communicate if you can do what you want to do, or what you enjoy doing at your company, brilliant. If you can’t, don’t be afraid of making the jump. It’s a scary thing. But what’s worse, being stuck in a dead end job where you start, you start to resent what you do, or making the plunge and going somewhere that it’s possibly excited. And if you’re if you’re good at what you do, you will always find work somewhere else.

Yeah, that’s good. That’s awesome. Hey, so Alex, we’ve been at this about an hour now. If you don’t want if my audience has any questions, what’s the social media site to? I know, I know you’re on LinkedIn. Where do you where do you hang out online these days?

And so if you want to ask me random questions that I may or may not be able to answer. I’m on LinkedIn. It’s Alex Richards. I’m also on Instagram. It’ll co ED dot Alex, which is what I post normal, random stuff that I’m doing. I’ve also got a YouTube that’s mainly just somewhere to store videos. So that’s aircon Alex, but LinkedIn is probably the best one. But it’s Alex Richards or aircon Alex, it’s just Google it. You’ll be fine.

Yeah, yeah. Well, make sure you stay bored. Because I want to see you post stuff. Want more? As much as you can I enjoy the heck out of your videos.

Appreciate it. I mean, I almost started this because of boredom. But probably some good things have started out from boredom, I guess. Yeah, no, that’s

that’s good was a great story. That’s really good. Yeah, nothing else to do. I was waiting for this thing. I just did a video.

That’s great. But I encourage people to do I mean, the best thing I could ever encourage any apprentice is

if you’ve learned anything, new wrench, you’ve done that

job. If you’ve got a bit of time, record yourself talking about it, the process you did or anything like that, because there’s nothing worse especially me being dyslexic, writing stuff down and you come to look at anything. I can’t be bothered to read all that. But if you if you’re recording yourself, you don’t have to post it or anything, record yourself talking about it. And it’ll it’ll help jog your memory, if you ever need to come back to it. Especially if you’ve got an exam. And you talk about psychometric charts. And you think, Ah, yes, no, no what I was talking about. So that I mean, that’s the biggest advice I could give anybody new in the trade, record yourself doing things that you don’t normally do or have done something new. And they’ll easily jog your memory. Again, it doesn’t have to be for the public view. And it can be for your own personal use. But it just helps so much, especially with this industry is there seems to be a lot of dyslexic people in it. Whether it’s it’s an industry that because of how the Dyslexic mind works with logic solving, it attracts or people think I don’t want to go to university, there’s too much writing involved. I’ll do a trade. And that’s where all the Dyslexics end up. I don’t know. But doing videos yourself can really sort of jog your memory back to things. So that’s pretty much what I did some of them.

Yeah, the other thing that’s, that’s really helpful, what I found is when, let’s say you have a subject that you’re experiencing, that you want to share, there’s something that happens when you’re talking about it. In other words, when you’re when you have to teach somebody else or you want to share with somebody else, that experience of explaining yourself helps you retain information a lot better, right? It’s I don’t know, it’s just I don’t know if it’s happens to you. Maybe that’s just the Dyslexic brain thing but

oh, yeah, definitely been times way for now. subject I’ve not been 100% about. I’ve been talking somebody about it, and then it just clicked in my mind and go, Oh, yeah, it’s because of that. So yeah, definitely. Yeah. And that’s it for what you’re doing by recording yourself. You sort of you just reteaching yourself. Yeah, hopefully it just stays in the mind a little bit longer.

Yeah, ya know, I’m a big believer in sharing, especially now, because, yeah, I know, you’ve seen it, you’ve been been at it long enough. Where, you know, when I first got into the, into HVAC refrigeration back in the 80s, there wasn’t a lot of evolution, you know, there wasn’t, we didn’t really have printed circuit boards and machinery, you know, it was, it really didn’t change a lot for the first decade of my, my, my technician life, right. But then all of a sudden, it just started going nuts, I mean, that the acceleration of the automation controls and printed circuit boards and logic, and all this stuff has really, really taken off, especially in the VRF stuff, the VRF space, it’s always

yes, definitely moves so quickly. And this is why it’s such a good idea to get as many young people as possible, because they pick up that stuff so quickly. I’ve got a five year old and he’s got this Amazon tablet, I have no idea how to control it. But he is an absolute whiz, he’s five years old. And this is the thing as things get more complicated, more PC driven, and all this was connected with everything. Younger minds pick it up so much faster. And I need younger people to do that. For me when I can’t do it.

It’s pretty bad when you know, like you’re trying to get your, your little tablet working. And your five year old comes in, give me that that?

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

You know, yeah, it’s, it’s a real, it’s a real interesting time right now. Because the acceleration of that, and, you know, back to teaching. So these manufacturers now they’re trying to make their products smarter and smarter. And, you know, we’re, our industry has been catching up for the last probably two decades to what’s happening in the automotive industry, that kind of stuff. So they’re making changes all the time, like you mentioned earlier about, you know, putting a VRF into a particular mode to make, you know, like a test mode or whatever, well, they may change the, the button sequence to do that, right. And they don’t, sometimes they, they don’t put it in the manuals, the manuals don’t even keep up with how fast the technology is changing. So Alex, putting out a video Hey, guys, I’m working on a new Mitsubishi Multi Zone split. And this is brand new. And here’s the book. And here’s what the book says is not right, I spent an hour and a half on the phone with tech support. It’s this button sequence to get it to do what it’s supposed to. I mean, that’s a huge help to 1000s of people, right?

Oh, definitely, especially when you need just in time knowledge, because of how many different manufacturers that are and how many different models of things are, you don’t want to be on the phone for 45 minutes? For an answer to question you want that information now. And if it’s not easily available, then you start doing shortcuts. And as things get more and more complicated, we really don’t want shortcuts, we want things done properly. And that just in time information is hugely important. And I mean, I’m not I don’t know about some of the American manufacturers, but especially some of the VRV manufacturers, some of the information is really easily available, but some of it is an absolute nightmare to get ahold of. And they don’t push that information that easily. The likes of Daikon, I mean, their app is fantastic for some of the information. But it’s not all the information. And it’s when you need little bits and bobs where the amount of times I’ve found a video on YouTube of someone with a similar situation to me. And I’ve got that information there. And then it’s so useful for an engineer when you’ve got limited amount of time on the site. You need this that thing working quickly as possible. And you’ve got that just in time information in which is a huge difference. Not stress of the of the customer who wants this thing up and running. And you’re not on phone for an hour and a half waiting for somebody to go Oh yeah, you just push this button for two seconds. Awesome. I wish that two hours ago.

Yeah. And you know what, we have to be there for each other. You know, it’s it’s, yeah, so I’m a big proponent of that. So guys, if you have a technical problem that you’re able to fix, especially those ones when you’ve been on the phone 45 minutes, just do a do a YouTube search set up your own YouTube channel takes 10 minutes, do a quick recording with this magic device you have in your in your pocket and and share it with everybody because that will definitely come back at you if you if you share in and you have a problem on a different piece of equipment. That video may be there for you to help help you figure it out quicker. So Oh, it all comes back.

Oh, massively Yeah. Worry about what you look or sound like. After I did my first video, I felt like I had to apologize to everybody who has heard my voice because you never hear your own voice. Yeah,

I had the same thing when I was doing my first started my podcast, I every once in a while I’ll go back and I’ll look at some my, my original ones. I’m like, Man, that’s pretty rough. But you know, just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it, you know?

That’s it. I mean, it doesn’t have to look all polished or anything like that. If the information is there, and it’s good, and it’s easy to follow, then it really doesn’t matter. And don’t be worried about if there’s all the details aren’t quite right now, nobody’s going to criticize your go Hold on a minute. You’ve said yeah, that numbers wrong. So as long as the information is there for people to use, then it’s such a useful tool.

So that is it. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I very much look forward to continuing to connect with you. Please don’t hesitate to send me messages on LinkedIn. I’m on there all the time. Or you can reach out to me on my email. And until next week, when I give you the next installment I wish you a great week, and I will connect up with you again soon. Take care of now. Bye bye

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