Bob Dylan sang “the times, they are a-changin’,” a sentiment that is still so true today – especially in the field of HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). Although it is still a male-dominated industry, there are countless new opportunities for females in HVAC programs.
In the past 20 years, female-owned businesses have increased 1.5 times faster than the national average. There has been a similar rise in professional HVAC women. In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 2 percent of HVAC workers were women. That’s not many, but it’s a rate that keeps increasing.
Why women are needed in HVAC
Many baby boomers have reached the ends of their careers, and many more will retire within the next 10 years. Emsi (labor analytics) says that because of our aging population, there will be a severe shortage of skilled trades workers. It will be necessary to look outside of the usual job pool to fill the workforce. In the HVAC industry, the need for qualified technicians is expected to grow 21 percent between 2012 and 2022. The growth rate, coupled with a retiring workforce, means the field will need women to survive.
How the industry attracts females to HVAC programs
In the past, women seemed to “fall into” trades careers. They may have served in administrative roles and decided to learn about the technical side. Many took over the family business, learning along the way. Now, however, HVAC companies are holding job fairs, awarding scholarships to women and incentivizing them with reimbursement for education costs. In addition, organizations like Women of HVAC are popping up to offer resources, connections and educational options to women who are considering a career in the HVAC industry.
Why women are suited for HVAC
Women have well-developed communications skills, and that can be a big asset in this male-dominated industry.
Bill Sharpless, an HVAC instructor at Florida Academy, tries to talk women into entering the HVAC field. “They have
better education, attention to detail, customer service skills,” he says. “One thing we try to push here is customer service skills because you can be a really good technician, but if you can’t talk to a customer, you’re not going to be doing anything.”
How females in HVAC programs have succeeded
When Sandra Garza graduated from Chicago’s Coyne College in 1996, she was the only female in the HVAC program. “As a female, I was welcomed because I was the only one,” she says. Now, she owns a business, SG Heating & Cooling Services, in suburban Oak Lawn. “It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to be female in a male industry.”
Yolanda Rodriguez graduated valedictorian of her HVAC training class at Coyne in December 2017. Although she found a job immediately, her self-confidence was lacking. “I used to think at first that I had to try really hard to be accepted by men or be an equal,” she says. “I feel confident in where I can go with HVAC.” Rodriguez says she is happy to see other females working in HVAC. “A lot of companies have told me they want more women on board,” she says. “It looks good for them, and they believe it will also help their employees.”
How Women of HVAC helps professional HVAC women
There is so much demand for technicians to install, repair and maintain HVAC systems, but not enough qualified people to do the job. Women are the largest underutilized resource and can fill those labor shortages. Women of HVAC is tasked with bringing awareness, showcasing women in the field and giving them the necessary tools to begin successful careers in the trades. The benefits are appealing: steady work, a great job outlook, excellent wages and the opportunity to work in a variety of places, from medical facilities and research labs to offices and homes. Women of HVAC can help women find schools that will train them for this lucrative, in-demand field and can provide resources, opportunities and support for those already in the field.
Women make up 51 percent of the workforce, and they’ve proven that there’s nothing they can’t do – even in male-dominated industries.