The demographics of the HVAC workforce are changing and more women are being welcomed into the HVAC industry in a wider variety of roles. In part, the changes are because of necessity as Baby Boomers retire from the workforce and leave a labor and skills gap to be filled.
HVAC commercial service business, HB McClure Company, based out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is embracing change and encouraging more women to consider a career in the HVAC workspace. The company’s female employees are happy to speak up about the advantages of working in the HVAC industry.
Promoting women in HVAC industry
Kara Boeckel began working at HB McClure Company as an HVAC technician and is now a Preventive Maintenance Coordinator. Back in trade school, she was the only woman in her class. She faced negative preconceptions about her capabilities compared to male counterparts and there were no female role models.
Women were 50% of the U.S. labor force in 2019, but only 2% of employees in the HVAC field were women
Despite the challenges, Boeckel found her vocational pathway. Now, her peers at HB McClure Company give her support and help her get past any fear of being a minority in a male-dominated field. “Now I don’t see being a female as a weakness,” said Kara Boeckel, adding “I see it as a strength.”
Women were 50% of the U.S. labor force in 2019, but only 2% of employees in the HVAC field were women. And that number had increased from an even lower figure eight years before – 0.6%.
Need for more HVAC technicians
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC employment will likely increase 15% through 2026. The growth, combined with the current labor shortage, means technicians are needed to fill the estimated 115,000 new positions that the industry expects to have available by 2022. If trends continue, many of them are likely to be women.
However, more awareness is needed to attract employees of any gender to the HVAC market. “Students are not as exposed to the prospects in this industry,” said Shelly Matter, HB McClure’s Director of Business Development, adding “There is a shortage of skilled tradespeople, male and female.”
Monetary benefits in HVAC
After completing the required field training and certifications, many possibilities open up for women to grow their career, with job positions ranging from Foreman to Project Manager, Engineering to Sales. Shelly Matter has been in the commercial/industrial HVAC industry for more than 20 years. Now, she makes presentations at expos, conferences and local school career fairs.
The number one question among prospective HVAC employees that she meets is, ‘How much does it pay?’ Shelly Matter is happy to assure students that it’s possible to make a generous living in HVAC, after one establishes capability and reliability.
Challenges and opportunities in HVAC
The best part is meeting wonderful customers and helping them solve their commercial HVAC problems"
Kelly Overlander, New Business Development Representative at HB McClure, was formerly the owner of a successful hair salon for more than 15 years. After she sold her salon and entered the mechanical trades industry, Overlander is proud of her ability to bring value to customers.
“My job delivers a variety of challenges and many opportunities for professional growth,” said Kelly Overlander, adding “The best part is meeting wonderful customers and helping them solve their commercial HVAC problems.”
Importance of role models
Having good role models is a critical aspect of women seeking to enter the HVAC business. Angela Klingler, HB McClure New Business Developer, sees a need for more female trade school instructors and appreciates the value of women surrounding themselves with people who have expertise and then learning from their strengths.
She advocates mentoring, sharing industry opportunities and partnering with organizations, such as the Partnership for Career Development, to help bridge the gap between industry and education. It all comes down to identifying what one is passionate about, and then combining that passion with a career that aligns with those passions.
“When you go to a nursing home and the heater isn’t working, you not only fix it, but you have taken care of bringing warmth to someone’s grandmother, and she’s thanking you,” said Kelly Overlander, adding “Working in HVAC is very rewarding.”