MEET THE PRO: Matthew Penn, HVAC Technician

By Arkansas Next on Friday, October 13, 2023

Jacob Slaton

Hometown: Hazen

Age: 29

Where I Trained: Arkansas State University-Beebe

What I Earned: Certificate in structural welding

Job Title: HVAC Tech

Employer: Riceland Foods

Matthew Penn was involved in agriculture classes throughout high school and enjoyed learning skills in different careers throughout the industry. Now, as an HVAC technician, Matt is able to get a jump-start on working in the field. Not to mention that he can begin to save and invest money at a younger age. 

“I chose trades because there are so many things you can accomplish rather than going to school for years and possibly losing interest,” Matt said. “I just don’t think that was the route for me. I’m more of a hands-on learner.”

His responsibilities include mending and sustaining machines and equipment by tuning it properly at the plant so everything can run smoothly. Confidence and creativity are natural abilities that make an individual good for an HVACR job.

“My peers are what I like most about my job,” Matt said. “But also the challenges we face day to day. I enjoy a challenge that makes me use my thinking skills.”

Matt works on all locations of the plant, from the oil side to the mill side. Perks of the job include building experience, establishing a career and being able to develop financial stability for his family.

Matt’s advice to students wanting a career just like his is: “Continue to be positive and pursue your dreams. There is always a spot for you somewhere on [a] team.”


Install or repair heating, air conditioning, or refrigeration systems, including burners, furnaces and stoves.

Education Needed: 

A certificate and on-the-job training

Job Outlook

 Employment is projected to increase 6% in Arkansas by 2030

 3,620 - Estimated number of HVACR technicians expected to be employed in Arkansas by 2023

High-end earners (top 10%) make
$63,360 Annual
$39.77 Hourly

Median wages in Arkansas
$45,750 Annual
$21.99 Hourly


  • Arkansas Construction Education Foundation
  • Arkansas Northeastern College
  • Arkansas State University Three Rivers
  • Arkansas State University-Beebe
  • Arkansas State University-Newport
  • Business and Industry Training
  • East Arkansas Community College
  • Lexicon Inc.
  • National Park College
  • Northwest Technical Institute (NWTI)
  • Nucor Steel
  • Simmons Foods
  • Tyson Foods Inc.
  • University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College
  • University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Technology-Crossett
  • University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville
  • University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton
  • University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana


  • Nucor Steel
  • Simmons Foods
  • Tyson Foods Inc.