NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna High School junior Adriana Holden’s career prospects are running hot and cold.
But that’s a good thing.
Holden has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps — and currently is training for work in the male-dominated Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration trade.
Holden is the only woman enrolled in the Capital Region BOCES HVAC/R program this year and one of just three to enter the program during the past 23 years.
Only one woman has graduated from the program — Kayleen Taber, a 2019 graduate of Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District.
The disparity is not just a local one. Nationally, industry officials say, women account for just 1.4 percent of the 332,900 workers in the field.
“It doesn’t bother me, the classroom is good,” Holden said in a recent interview. “They don’t treat me any different.
“I just like it,” she added, about the work. “It’s hands-on and fun.”
Holden received her first taste of the HVAC/R industry when she was 12 years old. She would accompany her father, Chris, on jobs.
“I went with my dad when I was 12 and I have been going ever since,” Holden said. “It’s fun and you get to help people and work on different systems.”
Asked why she is interested in a trade that attracts so few women, Holden said, “It just interests me … I like hands-on activities and just doing stuff.”
Holden’s favorite activities — so far — in HVAC/R are soldering and brazing (soldering with an alloy of copper and zinc at high temperature).
“There’s just something about it that is fun,” she said.
Besides being fun, the industry can offer strong career outlooks.
With a 15 percent workforce growth forecast by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the average age of HVAC technicians at 54, demand is in place for people who enter the industry.
“I want to graduate and get a job in the industry, maybe with my dad’s employer,” Adams Heating & Cooling, Holden said.
Adams is a partner with Capital Region BOCES and has hired BOCES HVAC graduates in the past, including Holden’s classmate Sam Boice, who worked for the company last summer.
Retired Capital Region BOCES teacher Frank Ando said the industry needs more women — especially at a time when companies are desperate for good workers.
“It’s an awareness issue,” Ando said. “I just think girls and women think of it as something that is not available to them, but it’s not only available, it’s a good option.”
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