Today, many students hear, “Everyone needs to go to college.” It’s heard across our society from parents to school counselors. This expectation has been engrained into students without realizing that a traditional four-year college or university may not be the best fit for all. By valuing traditional, higher education over technical and trade schools, many students are saddled with degrees and debt but limited career opportunities. This is where technical or trade schools can play a significant role in bolstering the next generation.
We will always need HVAC technicians, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades. With students thinking a traditional four-year school is the only “right” path and an aging workforce, experts in these trade professions are becoming scarce. It’s time to flip the script on the options for secondary education.
We spoke with Josh Adamcyk, scholarship winner of mikeroweWORKS Foundation’s Profoundly Disconnected, to ask him about his career path as an HVAC technician. Mike Rowe’s foundation aims to help inform students that a traditional four-year school isn’t for everyone, and that’s not just okay—it’s a really good thing.
Here’s what Josh shared about his career and journey to where he is today.
Upon graduation, how did you begin your career?
I started my career like most I would say. I was working as a store technician for a local HVAC supply house taking interviews that my school lined up and where I sent my resume. I was hired by a great company that's pretty big out here in the Chicagoland area.
What were your biggest barriers to success?
My biggest hurdle, initially, was taking myself out of my comfort zone by learning to be comfortable talking to and working with customers in their homes. I never had much experience in that situation, so I worked on overcoming my anxiety and focused a lot on being respectful and polite.
How would you describe your career in HVAC?
This is really interesting to think about; I can really break it down to one thought. I learned so much in school. The impact all my teachers had on creating this passion I now have in this growing field always fills me with pride, day in and day out, with every happy customer I have the privilege of knowing. I am very grateful for the company I work for; I am constantly learning and evolving into the kind of person I always strive to be. I crave knowledge and even though this is my first company, I feel like I have a lifelong commitment to this company.
What’s your best piece of advice for those looking to begin a career in HVAC or another trade?
The best advice I can give anyone, no matter what background you are coming from, would be to not chase the paycheck. I have met quite a few guys while I was in school that started because they were told there is a lot of money in this field, which is true, but I feel that if you focus too hard on the money instead of having the drive and focus to gain as much experience and knowledge as you can, you won’t enjoy your work and it will start to weight you down. I feel if you focus on continuously improving yourself, in experience and being very personable, the money will naturally follow.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned in your career?
The best thing I have learned in this field is that we help a lot of people in some of the most stressful and uncomfortable times of the year. There is a sense of pride and satisfaction when you can help someone understand what happened and what they can do to improve their family’s comfort.
Looking back, would you do anything differently in your career trajectory?
Looking back, I can’t really see any other path that would have led me to be the man I am today. The company I work for, in many ways, has become like another family in the way they have helped me become a better technician and better person overall.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 15 years?
This is definitely something I think about a lot, I see myself as a free and hard worker. I plan to continuously have a career and work in an industry I am very passionate about and enjoy what I do. I want to continue to learn more and be financially free enough to have a roof over my head with a family, living my life and enjoying it as much as I can.
Learn more about Josh’s experience in Mike Rowe’s Profoundly Disconnected success story.