Similar to other important skilled trades, the HVAC/R industry is facing a shortage of qualified workers right now. Accounting for just 1.4 percent of the workforce of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers in 2018, women are arguably underrepresented in this field.
The situation presents a huge opportunity for contractors in need of qualified workers and women looking for careers with job security.
“If women just realized the opportunities available here, they can absolutely help solve the problem. Right now, we have an aging industry. We need to do more to recruit young talent, and I think women, especially today, are looking for strong career opportunities. Once you’re in, you never leave because it is such a welcoming industry. The opportunities are just endless here,” said Susan Kirkland, president of Packard Inc.
Just what kind of opportunities is Kirkland talking about? Rather than offer you more statistics, we’ll share how three women are finding success in the HVAC/R industry.
3 Women Thriving in HVAC/R Careers
HVAC/R Technician: Telese Williams
For Telese Williams, becoming an HVAC/R technician was a career change. After dealing with the financial uncertainty that came with repeated layoffs in the construction industry, Williams retired her brick mason tools in exchange for HVAC/R training in hope of more reliable job prospects.
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The decision proved to be a good one. These days, you’ll find her repairing cooling towers and installing fuses around the campuses of Georgia State University. She admits that her male coworkers didn’t take her seriously at first, but once she showed off her technical skills, there was no problem.
As for where she sees her career going, she has her sights set on teaching HVAC/R one day.
“I would love to be a mentor, if I can show what I know to someone. For one thing, the pay is excellent. Once you get it down, you can go into business for yourself and be independent. And it’s just fun; I have a lot of fun doing what I do,” said Williams.
HVAC/R District Sales Manager: Hilary Carlin
When Hilary Carlin started at Midway Supply less than five years ago, she had no HVAC/R experience but knew how to sell. She spent her first 10 weeks training online, memorizing product information from flashcards and visiting branches to learn about the goods firsthand for the HVAC sales position.
Since then, she successfully made the transition from distribution into manufacturing, and she has plans to advance within that sector.
“My career goals in HVAC are to be in an executive role within manufacturing. I’m looking to empower females as leaders in an industry that’s unique to females. I also want to continue to challenge the traditional thought process surrounding going to market in partnership with dealers and distribution,” explained Carlin.
HVAC Mechanical Engineer: Angie Simon
Angie Simon was always interested in math and science. Taking the advice of her father, an electrical engineer for the U.S. Navy, she decided to study mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic State University. She specifically chose a program with an HVAC solar option.
She got her first job in the industry right after graduation and has since climbed the career ladder to become the president of Western Allied Mechanical Inc. in Menlo Park, California. Keeping up with the ever-evolving industry is one of her favorite parts of her job.
“I love the constant challenges that come with the changes in the industry. Each project you work on is different, and every team you work with is different. I also love being able to say, ‘Hey, I worked on that building.’”
The industry appreciates the buildings she works on, too. At the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association’s 73rd Annual Convention, she earned the Contractor of the Year Award—the first woman to ever receive such an honor.
Women: The HVAC/R Industry Needs You
As you can see, women are enjoying HVAC/R careers and excelling in the industry. And employers want to hire more female workers.
Angie Snow, the owner and vice president of Western Heating & Air Conditioning in Orem, Utah, said her company actively tries to recruit women. She hired her first female technician five years ago and her customers, mostly women, love her because they can relate with her.
With HVAC/R service calls, it’s usually stay-at-home moms who are there when the work is being done, and they’re much more comfortable with a female technician. So much so, that other HVAC/R companies in the area have been trying to poach Snow’s female technicians.
Female HVAC/R technicians agree: there is huge potential for women in this industry.
Gerri Domenikos, the CEO of AirLogix in Astoria, New York, says opportunities open up for women skilled in the HVAC business, even if they decide to transfer their skills into other trades.
“There’s a big, big talent crisis in the field, so for young women who maybe don’t want to take the academic path and grow into a business-type career, it’s a great potential. Not only is it a challenging and dynamic opportunity with a lot of potential for growth as long as you’re willing to work for it, it’s also untapped in many markets, even rural markets. If you know this industry, know this business, you really can work anywhere in the world.”