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Careers in the Skilled Trades

Q&A with HVAC Jess

Jessica Bannister

HVAC/R Apprentice 

Jessica Bannister, HVAC/R apprentice, shares why HVAC is a great career: job security, good pay, and personal growth. She encourages women to embrace their skills and find supportive networks.

What are three benefits in working as an HVAC technician that could encourage someone to enter the trade?

I think there are many benefits with respect to having a career in HVAC.  It’s challenging (great for problem-solving), it’s rewarding (you get a great sense of pride for your work) and it’s lucrative (hard work pays off). 

A career in HVAC offers a wide range of opportunities for personal and professional growth. From residential to commercial to industrial settings, HVAC technicians can choose to specialize in various areas (installation, maintenance, system design, etc.) With extra training and certifications, technicians can advance into supervisory roles, project management, or even start their own HVAC businesses. The industry rewards hard work, dedication, and a commitment to ongoing learning, there is a clear pathway for career advancement and fulfillment that can be achieved by any hard worker.

As society and our local communities increasingly focus on energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, the need for HVAC systems only continues to grow each year. This translates to job opportunities and long-term job security for HVAC technicians. Whether it’s installing new systems, performing maintenance, or troubleshooting issues, there’s always a demand for qualified technicians to ensure indoor comfort and product safety.

Careers in HVAC are “AI-proof” – meaning AI won’t take over our jobs anytime soon.  It’s possible that AI might take over technical training, but it will not replace an actual technician for a very, very long time.  Careers in HVAC are recession and pandemic-proof – we have gone through both situations in the last 20 years and we were deemed essential services and worked through COVID. 

What advice would you give to young women considering starting a career in the skilled trades?

Do not underestimate you own talents, skills and strengths, they have tremendous value in the skilled trades. Whether you excel in problem-solving, possess a keen eye for detail, or have a knack for working with your hands, these attributes are highly desirable in fields like HVAC. Embrace your abilities and trust in your capacity to succeed. You have the power within you.

Don’t hesitate to seek out peers, mentors and allies who can offer guidance and support throughout your career path. Connect with other women in the industry, join professional networks, and seek out mentorship opportunities within your field. Having a supportive network can provide invaluable encouragement and help you overcome any challenges you may encounter along the way.  There will be many challenges. 

Education and training are key pillars of success in the skilled trades, so make sure you invest (time and money) into them. Take advantage of apprenticeship programs, vocational training, and educational opportunities to enhance your skills and knowledge in HVAC. Pursue certifications and continuing education to stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technologies. There are limitless resources out there to take advantage of.

Still, in 2024, you may encounter stereotypes and barriers along the way. Don’t be deterred by outdated perceptions or biases. Instead, challenge stereotypes by showcasing your expertise, professionalism, and passion for your work. Lead by example and inspire others to embrace diversity and inclusion in the skilled trades.  Haters will be haters.  Let them be. 

Building a successful career in the skilled trades requires resilience and persistence. Embrace the learning curve, remain adaptable to change but have patience with yourself, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Stay focused on your goals, persevere through the many challenges, and celebrate your achievements along the way. Your determination and resilience will be key drivers of your success in the HVAC industry.

What is your favourite thing about your job, that gets you up in the morning?

There are a few things I love about being an HVAC technician:

Variety and Diversity: One of the great things about being an HVAC technician is that no two days the same. You might find yourself working on different types of systems, in various settings such as residential homes, commercial buildings, or industrial facilities. This variety keeps the job interesting and allows you to continually learn and expand your skills. Also, interacting with a diverse range of clients and colleagues adds a social aspect to the work that many technicians, like myself, enjoy.

Hands-on work: If you’re someone who enjoys working with your hands and getting into the nitty-gritty of mechanical systems, HVAC is the perfect fit. The hands-on nature of the job allows you to interact directly with equipment, from installing new systems to performing routine maintenance and repairs. There’s a tangible sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from seeing the results of your hard work.

Problem-solving: One of the most satisfying aspects of being an HVAC technician is the opportunity to tackle unique challenges every day. Whether it’s diagnosing a complex issue with a rooftop unit or troubleshooting an AC unit, the thrill of problem-solving keeps the job engaging and rewarding.

Contributing to comfort, safety, and energy efficiency: HVAC technicians play a crucial role in ensuring the comfort, safety, and well-being of individuals in both residential and commercial spaces. Whether it’s keeping a family warm during the winter months or ensuring optimal indoor air quality in a workplace, knowing that your work directly impacts the lives of others can be incredibly gratifying. Being able to provide reliable and efficient HVAC solutions gives a sense of pride in the service you provide to your community.

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