News of the skilled trades gap is in the daily news from every part of the country to places around the world. Great jobs are going unfilled at great companies with the labor shortage becoming more dire each day. Why? For the last 30 years, students have been ushered down the traditional path of college after high school graduation. Another group of people, who have talents to share with the industry, has been steered away from the trades: women. But with a quick check of history, we can see that that hasn’t always been the case.
During World War II, women were called upon to become the backbone of industry while men went off to serve the country. Rosie the Riveter was the face of the nation…until the war’s end when wives, mothers, sisters and daughters went back to their traditional domestic roles and men entered the workforce, with 80% of them working in the trades. Fast forward to 2019 where women are still not highly visible in the trades and only six percent of the workforce is working in plumbing, HVAC and electrical combined.
A quick glance at that statistic can sum up the current state of the trades industry in two words: workforce crisis. Recognizing that half of our working population can make a significant and industry-changing impact in the trades, one business owner is focused on moving the needle in a positive direction for women in the industry.
Mary Jean Anderson, owner of Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air in San Diego, has been in the industry since 1978 and leads one of the most successful residential service companies in the country. With 15 female technicians on staff, she has seen their careers rapidly progress, as well as the positive impact they’ve had with homeowners.
As Mary Jean first notes, “People don’t understand what residential home service is all about and that is skill, understanding, communication and comfort. The majority of our clients are women and when a female technician arrives for a service call, there’s an immediate connection with trust and credibility.”
While a number of women are serving in frontline roles at Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air, Mary Jean is quick to note that none of them had industry experience when they applied for jobs. Through extensive training at their company, the women have become some of the top producing technicians, project managers and design consultants on staff.
“I could share a success story about each of them,” Mary Jean said, “and it’s been wonderful watching their story. In this industry, it’s true that women have to work harder to prove themselves, but our employees have done it. The male employees have welcomed them to the team.”
While each female frontline employee at Anderson has their own story about how they found the company, Mary Jean noted a couple similarities about the collective. “I’ve watched them grow as people and attain financial success where they might not have otherwise. The women have built such strong connections that clients are willing to wait three to four weeks for a specific employee!”
Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air is leading the charge to bring women into the trades and it’s time that the rest of the industry takes notice.
If you’re looking for information on entering the trades, check out www.explorethetrades.org for information about education, licensing, scholarships, jobs and more!