Women At HB McClure Company Find A Rewarding Vocational Pathway In HVAC
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.”
Gas Boiler Ban 2025: The Challenges Ahead To Reaching This Milestone
As part of the UK Government’s stated commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, gas boilers, along with other fossil-fuel burning boilers, are to be banned in newbuild homes from 2025 under the Future Homes Standard. Although the ban has received a widespread welcome in principle, there has been criticism. Environmental groups have criticized the ban for not going far enough in tacking the escalating climate crisis, and the construction and home-building industries have criticized it for the challenges it brings in achieving a viable home-heating alternative in such a short space of time. Placing significant demand Despite the criticism, the ban doesn’t go far enough; applying to newbuild homes only, with, as yet, no plans to phase out gas heating in existing homes. New heating technology has to be ready to roll out before 2025, whether it’s to 160,000 homes per year (the annual approximate figure of new homes built) or the UK’s entire housing stock of 29 million. Despite the criticism, the ban doesn’t go far enough; applying to newbuild homes only The Home Builders Federation, in reaction to the Future Homes Standard, has said, “It’s going to be a challenge and a huge area of work.” And it is widely acknowledged there is significant demand placed on the building and HVAC industries to produce a long-term, viable solution. Challenges include the creation of new, cost-effective designs of energy infrastructures, and implementation in time for the short deadline of less than four years away. Gas boiler heating systems From energy design engineers to developers, suppliers, and energy companies, everyone in the supply chain is affected in delivering a solution that UK homeowners can afford and that developers can supply. The communications challenge also cannot be underestimated, to bring along the public to the reality that homes cannot, ultimately, continue to be heated by the gas boilers they are so familiar with. The most likely low-carbon alternative to gas boiler heating systems is generally acknowledged to be heat pumps and heat networks, powered by renewables. It has been estimated by the Committee on Climate Change that by 2030 there will be 2.5 million heat pumps in new homes. Heat pumps offer comparable heating power to gas boilers and are powered by low-carbon electricity. Heat pumps have great potential for saving carbon; approximately 25-85 tCO2 per home over an average lifetime, reducing carbon emissions by 90%. Existing gas system But hydrogen is expensive to produce and although the existing gas system could be readily used for supply But for heat pumps to provide the level of warmth, particular in winter, and summer, weather in the UK, their effectiveness relies on excellent insulation, including triple glazing and adaptations to walls, floors, and ceilings. And while there has been a drive to get our draughty homes better insulated in the UK in recent years, with various grants and funding, this will be particularly crucial for newbuilds going forward. Hydrogen boilers could be an alternative to gas boilers. Hydrogen produces no emissions when burnt, only water and heat. But hydrogen is expensive to produce and although the existing gas system could be readily used for supply, and by consumers already familiar with a boiler system, it is not yet seen as a full solution to the replacement of gas. Technically qualified workers Trials are due to be carried out in the north-east with hydrogen-ready boilers. But the impending deadline and challenge for production and systems to be ready and tested, for mass implementation is unrealistic. Even before the Future Homes Standard was announced, there was an acknowledged shortage of skills. Engineering UK, in a recent survey, found that an additional 1.8 million engineers and technically qualified workers would be needed by 2025 in order to meet demand. But the impending deadline and challenge for production and systems to be ready and tested Nearly a third of HVAC firms have declared a skills shortage, with many feeling there is a crisis in the sector of sufficient qualified workers who can satisfy the new regulations. Now the demand is set to rise with the ban, as well as Brexit. A large proportion of qualified HVAC workers are sourced from the EU, further compounding the crisis of the skills shortage already faced. Zero-Carbon technologies From imagining life without a gas boiler to a young person seeing their future career in engineering and renewable energy, effective communications and campaigns could go a long way. Targeted lifestyle campaigns, with positive, compelling case studies of homes of the future being powered by green, zero-carbon technologies could help to drive the momentum for innovation from a domestic base. Talent strategies could also combat the reality of an ageing and diminishing workforce in HVAC and other sectors. It’s vital now, more than ever, that young people see a career in renewable and eco-living technology as, not only rewarding but futuristic, global, and sophisticated. Any alternative to gas heating has to be affordable for UK households, and therefore for housing developers to adopt. Fuel poverty is a real risk. Energy-Saving measures The right help needs to be in place to support the development and take-up of the alternative According to the Committee on Climate Change, it costs £4,800 to install low-carbon heating in a new home, but £26,300 in an existing house while there are various funding initiatives for households adopting energy-saving measures, the right help needs to be in place to support the development and take-up of the alternative. Not just for newbuild homeowners, but beyond 2025 when existing households are called upon to switch. The Home Builders Federation have said of the Future Homes Standard, “Ambitious deadlines pose enormous challenges for all parties involved including developers, suppliers, energy companies in terms of skills, design, energy infrastructure and the supply chain.” Low-Carbon heating technology But there is also a stated dedication to achieving what can be realistically achieved, proving that there is a genuine commitment to ensuring our brighter, cleaner future and planet with low-carbon heating technology. The ultimate challenge now will be in Government, agencies, and industry working together, in a dedicated way, to be realistic about, and tackle the challenges across the board so the right solution for our home-heating future can be achieved, in time, and ready for a rollout for the new homes we build from 2025.