Class of 2019 graduate Kayleen Taber is an innovator who shattered a glass ceiling.
Taber, of Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School, is the first female to graduate from the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) Program at Capital Region BOCES.
“It’s cool,” she said, while steadying a furnace for a classmate who was cutting it apart. “I haven’t thought much of it.”
Taber grew up around contracting and chose HVAC/R because it is in an in-demand industry.
“HVAC is a good job. Everyone is going to eventually need an HVAC tech,” she said.
Indeed, with 15% workforce growth forecast by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the average age of HVAC technicians being 54, demand is certainly there for those looking to enter the industry. Despite that, women account for just 1.4 percent of the 332,900 workers in the industry.
“It’s an awareness issue,” said teacher Frank Ando. “I just think girls and women don’t think of it as something that is available to them.”
Ando said only one other female started the two-year Capital Region BOCES program during his 22 years of teaching and she left after one year.
“People wouldn’t expect girls do to the dirty work – but we do and we enjoy it,” said Taber.
“I grew up with construction and my uncle is in heating and cooling, so I knew what I wanted to do,” she said.
Taber said she has never experienced any issues being a girl in a classroom filled with boys.
“We all get a long,” she said. “The guys here are great.”
As to her plans after graduation, Taber said she is going to join her father Adam in the family business AT’s Custom Contractor, which is based in Selkirk.
“He does a little bit of everything. I can help him expand more in HVAC/R now,” she said.