Roughly 700,000 tradespeople in Canada are expected to retire by 2028, and there simply aren’t enough new workers to replace them.
Statistics like that worry Erin Jacobs of Whirlpool Canada. She’s been with the company for almost 20 years and works closely with the service technicians. She knows all too well how critical it is to attract new blood to the appliance repair trade.
That’s why she chose to speak at Herzing’s recent Women in Trades event. She hopes to inspire more people—particularly women—to consider a career in appliance service.
We caught up with Erin this week to learn more about her message and what prospective techs should know. Read on for the highlights of that conversation.
Q. What did you want to get across at the Women in Trades event?
Erin: I just think that women need more voices out there. In this industry that is so male dominated, we need another face to say, hey look, this is a fun industry.
In the appliance trade, you have many different opportunities vs. a plumber vs. an electrician vs. an HVAC tech because you touch all of that depending on what product you’re going to be fixing. Appliances are becoming more technologically advanced all the time.
I encourage women to jump into an industry that makes you a little nervous because with fear comes growth.
The reality is that sometimes consumers request female techs because that makes them feel safer. And every consumer has the right to request what they feel is going to be safe in their home.
We do have female technicians at Whirlpool, but they make up a small percentage. Ideally in the future, we’ll see a 50/50 split.
Q. What are the most important qualities or skills that an appliance tech needs to have?
Erin: Soft skills are as important as the technical skills they learn at school. The soft skills are where the magic is.
I think the most important qualities are being humble and willing to listen and learn. You need to understand the consequences of how you communicate. One slight word can change everything in the dynamic of a customer relationship.
An appliance tech goes into consumers’ homes. That’s people’s safe space. People can be who they are in their own home. But when they have a tech visiting, their anxiety levels rise.
The customer might be standing right next to you, and it’s not because they don’t trust you. They’re just very curious about what you are doing to an appliance that they spent thousands of dollars on. If the tech is humble in helping, it goes miles in the eyes of the consumer.
When you’re a new tech at Whirlpool, we need you to understand that you’re helping that customer stay loyal to our organization because of the work you do. So it’s really important to demonstrate business ethics and follow a code of conduct.
That seems very simple when you hear it, but in practice it definitely is the magic that a lot of organizations are looking for.
Q. What could an appliance repair career look like?
Erin: At the beginning as a technician, you’re going to be following a senior person so that you can learn the ropes and understand the day-to-day work.
But as you gain knowledge and experience, you have the ability to become a true entrepreneur. You could open up your own service dealership and have technicians working for you.
It all depends on what you want to do. Do you want to work for an organization and be trusted to fix appliances and keep customers happy? Or do you want to own a business and set the course of how you believe technicians should enter homes and deal with consumers?
Q. How physically demanding is appliance repair?
Erin: During a service or installation job, the appliance has already been delivered to the site. Whirlpool authorizes two people to attend service jobs that need an assistant for safe lifting. Examples of this may include a stacked laundry pair or a built-in wall oven that needs removal to repair.
In our industry, it’s common to see technician job postings that state lifting of up to 50 pounds is a requirement of the role. Keep in mind that a lot of our appliances have wheels on them, so once you pull them out they’re easy to maneuver.
So there would be a physical aspect to being a service technician, but it’s not the same as, say, delivering the appliances.
Q. What advice would you give someone who was thinking about getting into appliance service?
Erin: Networking is big. Talk to people who are in this trade. They can provide valuable insights, and you can gain contacts and connections with these individuals who can then help you begin and advance your career. Networking is really important.
Ask people what they like about their career. What made them choose this trade? Why did they want to become this instead of something else?
If you’re worried about the cost of going to school, check out the government websites. They offer incentive programs, so it’s really important to do your research and see what’s available. A lot of government incentive programs are not leveraged because people aren’t aware of them.
GET STARTED ON A CAREER IN APPLIANCE REPAIR
Herzing College’s Appliance Service Technician program teaches students how to troubleshoot and maintain a wide variety of major appliances. Training takes just 24 weeks to complete and is offered in both Toronto and Cambridge.
Click below to get complete program details and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!