Sheet Metal Skills and Staffing Challenges for HVAC Fabrication Shops

The skills required of sheet metal workers by an HVAC shop range right across-the-board, both mental and physical – a tribute to the many thousands who have succeeded in this career. Mechanical skills, computer knowledge and math capabilities are on the one hand, while dexterity, physical stamina, and strength are on the other. It’s quite the combination, and one that is constantly being sought after as the industry grows in size and importance.

So how does an HVAC shop owner, when starting up or expanding the business, go about choosing staff with the right mix of talents? Well, that will depend on the specific nature of the job, which is likely to be one of the following, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:


  • Selecting types of sheet metal according to plans
  • Measuring and marking dimensions and reference lines on metal sheets
  • Drilling holes in metal for screws, bolts, and rivets
  • Installing metal sheets with supportive frameworks
  • Fabricating or altering parts at construction sites
  • Maneuvering and anchoring large sheet metal parts
  • Fastening seams or joints by welding, bolting, riveting, or soldering

In addition to all of that, a major factor in staffing is the financial model of an HVAC contractor’s company. For example, take a business contractor focused on outdoor replacement and maintenance when the working season can be as short as seven months depending on the prevailing climate. This business model puts a serious strain on labor costs such as off-season lines of credit to fund payroll. On the other hand, a home performance contractor might be better placed because revenue can be generated in all twelve months of the year.

Roll Forming Operator

Staffing up an HVAC shop often means not only hiring qualified candidates but knowing how to overcome seasonality and financing factors to keep them on board.  It’s no surprise, then, to hear this advice from the U.S. Department of Energy: “It is generally in the HVAC contractor’s interest to limit the amount of labor hours on the job in order to keep average margin up.” The crucial question becomes, “How many technicians with the required skills can be hired?”

Considering this information, it could be said that success relies as much on good management as on the excellence of a well-trained staff.