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Expand Your Career Horizons

An Industry that Fosters Job Satisfaction Through Helping Others

Article by Sue Baldani

Photography by Andrew Vick Photography

Originally published in Edina Lifestyle

As president and CEO of Standard Heating & Air Conditioning in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Claire Ferrara couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “I really like that we provide a service that people actually need and we have an opportunity to help them with something they may not understand,” she says. “We enjoy it and are up for the challenge!”

Claire wants to encourage more people, especially women, to look into a career in the trades. She has seen massive growth in the industry, especially over the last five years, and says there are more people working in the HVAC profession than ever before. But, there is also a bigger labor shortage than there’s ever been before.

“This is actually good news for anyone who's been displaced out of their job by the pandemic and looking for a career change,” she says. “I’m seeing growing interest from women towards our industry and trades in general, which is amazing, but I think we still have a long way to go.”

She says many people think they need a technical background or experience working with tools in order to get into the field, but that’s not so. “You will be plenty qualified if you have a desire to learn and problem solve and work well with others. I think the biggest thing is to have the interest - if you're interested in doing something, then go and learn more about it.”

Claire attended Dunwoody College of Technology and is thankful for the education and guidance she received there. “The teachers at Dunwoody care about their students being ready on day one, and they put so much into their curriculum. But they also want their students to have a great work ethic and the skills to know how to interview. The instructors do everything they can to put the students in a place to be ready for the working world, not just the trade.”

A trade school, she explains, is typically a one- or two-year program, but you don't have to start in trade school. “We promote going to trade school, and people come to us out of trade school, but they also come to us as career changers.

“If someone hasn’t gone to trade school yet, we will work with them to work for us and earn a living and learn about the industry while they're going to school. We have internal training programs and we have an accredited apprenticeship program, and whether they’ve gone to trade school or not, we're going to put them through that.”

The employees at Standard Heating & Air Conditioning have very diverse backgrounds in terms of age, sex, gender identity, nationality and more. “We have employees 19 years of age all the way to almost 70, and many of them have come to us from a variety of industries such as, among many others, healthcare, food service, automotive, carpentry, the military and the corporate world,” says Claire.

What the technicians have in common is they generally like to be on the move - going to different homes every day - working with their hands, and taking great satisfaction in seeing a finished product, whether it's equipment that's now working or something that's been built. “They don’t shy away from solving a problem and helping people,” she says.

The company offers its staff ongoing training since they have to evolve with the times. “The physics of heating and cooling don't change that much, but pretty much everything else in our industry changes over time,” says Claire. “There are certainly continued advances in technology such as smart home devices, the ability to get real-time feedback on the function of your equipment, and how your house is performing. People are more tech savvy, and they want us to be more tech savvy too.”

They are also much more conscious of how they shop and what businesses they patronize. “Consumers hold a business like ours to an even higher standard than they did even five years ago, and this is good, because it keeps us on our toes and makes sure that we maintain the highest possible standard we can in everything we do. So, it's a good challenge to have.”

She wants people to know there are many lifelong career paths in the HVAC industry and hope they will look into finding out more. “These positions not only offer top pay and benefits, but there are real opportunities to lead, teach and help people. There's literally just about something for everyone, and I wish more people would come join us.”

Claire encourages those with an interest to contact the company. She and her staff would be happy to answer questions and guide others into an industry that brings her so much joy and satisfaction. Go to www.standardheating.com/careers

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