As men joined the military ranks during World War II, the industrial workforce suffered. Women, out of necessity, came to the rescue in droves. Rosie the Riveter became an icon for the female worker of the day, and it became rapidly apparent that women could handle the work. Fortunately, we’re no longer in the midst of a world war, but Emsi (labor analytics) says that because of our aging population, there will once again be a severe shortage of skilled trades workers, including those with HVAC skills.
It will soon be necessary to look outside of the usual job pool to fill the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for HVAC mechanics and installers are expected to grow 15 percent through 2026. The growth rate, coupled with a retiring workforce, means the field will need women to survive and fill the estimated 115,000 new positions that will be needed by 2022.
HVAC can be a good career for women, but many are unaware of just what’s available to them.
Women grow in the HVAC field
The female HVAC technicians who have jumped on the bandwagon are flourishing in the industry. Pat Popa, owner and operator of Popa Heating & Cooling in Highland, IN, is one of them. Her husband started the business 50 years ago. “I was a realtor and helped my husband with clerical work,” Popa says. “I took over in 2010 when he retired.” Since then, she has done 1,500 installations. “When I go in to a customer’s home, I’m very non-threatening,” she says. “Most of the time they say, ‘I felt so comfortable with you.’”
Popa says to keep up with the ever-changing technical landscape of the industry, she and her staff – which includes female HVAC technicians – take advantage of all the training they can get to work more efficiently.
Another success story is Sandra Garza of suburban Chicago. The sole female in her HVAC graduating class in 1996, Garza owns SG Heating & Cooling Services in Oak Lawn, IL. She saw a growing trend in the industry, and because she already knew appliances was able to make that leap. “In a period of one year, I tripled my business,” she says. “I couldn’t handle it all on my own.” To help, she hired four HVAC technicians.
Why females do well in HVAC
The typical HVAC customer is a woman. She’s often the one who is home during the day. When female HVAC technicians make service calls, the female customers often feel more comfortable. This can, in turn, result in more referral business for the technician’s company. In addition, women in HVAC may actually have some advantages over men because of some basic interpersonal skills:
- They are often better communicators.
- They pay attention to detail.
- They are analytical.
- They’re good listeners.
- They may have better customer service skills.
- They are often good at solving problems.
- They can multitask.
Why female mentorship can help women in HVAC succeed
Women are nurturers by nature, and with their generally good communication skills, they can make good mentors to other females in the field. Finding another female HVAC technician who is willing to be a mentor can really help a new technician:
- Understand and use her strengths and skills to boost her career
- Discover what she needs to do to bypass female stereotypes
- Learn to respond effectively in difficult situations
- Communicate clearly in a male-dominated trade
- Establish goals that result in career success
Women of HVAC as an advocate
Many opportunities are available for women who have HVAC skills. However, it never hurts to have an advocate. Women of HVAC brings awareness of the need for women in the field, showcases those who are already HVAC professionals and provides women with the necessary tools to begin their careers in HVAC skilled trades.
Although the increasing need for technicians and installers is worrisome for the industry, it’s good for women who are discovering that they can reap the benefits: steady work, high wages and countless opportunities.
Contact WomenofHVAC.ORG to find schools that offer HVAC programs, as well as resources, opportunities