Kerianne Kerr was tired of instability. She’d bounced around in a variety of short-term jobs, but never really felt like she had a career. So when a friend of hers kept talking about the HVAC field and the need for skilled techs, she decided it was a path worth pursuing.
The trades had never been on her radar. She had never touched a power tool and wasn’t used to physical labour. But the instructors and staff at Herzing College offered the training and support she needed, and Kerianne graduated from the program in September 2023.
We interviewed her recently to get her thoughts on the whole experience. Read on for her story.
Q. Can you share a bit about your background? What were you doing before enrolling at Herzing?
Kerianne: I was doing a bunch of small, temporary jobs. The job I had immediately before starting at Herzing was at Tim Hortons because that was the closest thing to stable that I could get. It was COVID time and fast food workers were essential.
I had a friend who had already been working in the HVAC field as a manager, and he kept complaining about not being able to find any good technicians. I was tired of fast food, so I figured I’d give HVAC a try.
I hadn’t had any experience in the trades before. Growing up, people stressed university and office jobs. And my mom was an office worker, so I’d only been exposed to that kind of work. I’d never held a power tool in my life. So I knew I needed training.
Q. What made you choose Herzing?
Kerianne: I looked up HVAC training online and noticed Herzing’s application deadline was the next month. Plus, the location was super convenient. I once had an office job where I had to pay bus fare for TTC and YRT, and I ended up walking for an hour just to save money. So finding something convenient and close was awesome. It seemed like the stars aligned.
Q. How did you find the course format?
Kerianne: I liked that some classes were online, so I didn’t have to worry about bus fare for half the week. It also helped because I could play back the online classes and refresh my memory on things. I don’t always remember everything that I’m taught in class. I think I understand it, but when it comes time to actually apply it, my mind goes blank. I need constant refreshers, and being online was good for that.
My instructor Bill Pidlysny tried to get us as much workshop time as possible. By the time I got my G2 gas tech certification, I already had experience with sheet metal, furnace maintenance, and appliances and AC units. So we got plenty of hands-on experience even though the theory work was online.
Closer to the exams it was all theory, all the time. Lots of review. The teacher made sure we were well prepared.
Q. What was the best part of the training?
Kerianne: I really appreciated that they were so accommodating to the fact that I wasn’t as strong as everyone else. The instructor recommended a grip strengthening tool you can use for resistance training. I also read that just holding something heavy, like shopping bags, can help improve your grip.
Some of the guys were a lot taller and stronger than me, but they were all very helpful and I really appreciated that.
Q. Were there many other women in the class?
Kerianne: No. I was the only one. I saw the night class only had one woman, and the electrical program had one woman. It seemed to be one girl per class. I found that kind of amusing.
I tried to form my own little network of women in trades, but I’m not very good at the whole networking part. I got a few numbers, but then I was like, OK, now what do I do?
Q. What have you been doing since you graduated?
Kerianne: I’m helping my friend out with the jobs that he’s working on. He’s mostly a service technician, but he also takes on some installation jobs.
Q. What challenges have you had to overcome in training or on the job?
Kerianne: I had to get over my fear of ladders. There was one time I had to climb a 30-foot ladder to get onto a roof. And then once we were on the roof, there was a second ladder that we needed to climb. Even my friend was a bit scared. He had done it before because he knew he had to, but he was still scared.
I felt the fear starting to creep in, but I just said you know what, let’s get this over with. And I got on that ladder.
I do know I need to be more consistent with lifting weights. A refrigerant tank, which we use a lot in the HVAC field, is on average 50 pounds, and I’m only able to lift 20 to 25 pounds. So I need to be more diligent about strength training.
I remember once we were holding up the indoor head of a ductless unit that we had to install on a wall. It wasn’t the ideal location, but it was what the customer wanted. The unit was only maybe 20 pounds and it was easy to carry and lift, but holding it up for 10 minutes at a time, you start feeling it. So I’ve added endurance training as something I’m going to need to be more consistent with.
Q. What advice would you give someone who was considering becoming an HVAC tech?
Kerianne: It’s important to be confident. Confidence is number one.
Make sure you’re as prepared as possible, because random things can throw you off or get you so flustered that you can no longer think about what you need to do.
Say you’re missing a tiny piece like a specific type of screw, but the job still needs to be done. Are you going to just stop while you run around to different stores trying to find that piece? Or is there something else you can do that isn’t dependent on that part of the job being done? You need to know what you’re doing so you don’t get thrown off track.
Q. How would you sum up your overall experience at Herzing?
Kerianne: It was very good. They were so helpful. I’m very appreciative that they were so supportive and understanding of the fact that I didn’t have as much experience as some of the other guys.
Everyone at Herzing made me feel very comfortable. I never felt like I was at a disadvantage because of my lack of experience.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE HVAC PROGRAM
Herzing College’s HVAC program provides hands-on training in installing and maintaining heating and cooling systems. Successful students also graduate with their G2 gas technician certification from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA).
The training is 52 weeks long and is available in both Toronto and Cambridge.
Click below to get full program details and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!