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Women forge a path in the trades

July 30, 2013
WACO, TEXAS — After being featured on “Undercover Boss” in 2012, Dina Dwyer-Owens, CEO and Chairwoman of The Dwyer Group, parent company to seven service brand franchises, including Mr. Rooter, began a scholarship program, Women in the Trades, to promote the advancement of women in front-line services such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, appliance repair, home restoration, glass installation and landscaping.
Dina Dwyer-Owens (pictured in the center), owner of The Dwyer Group, is surrounded by women working in The Dwyer Group franchises.

WACO, TEXAS — After being featured on “Undercover Boss” in 2012, Dina Dwyer-Owens, CEO and Chairwoman of The Dwyer Group, parent company to seven service brand franchises, including Mr. Rooter, began a scholarship program, Women in the Trades, to promote the advancement of women in front-line services such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, appliance repair, home restoration, glass installation and landscaping. 

The Women in the Trades annual scholarship is awarded to women who aspire to excel within trade industry professions, including plumbing, air conditioner and appliance service and repair, landscape management and more. The provided funds will aid in attaining all necessary training and certification to assist these women in furthering their career goals and forging a path in traditionally male-dominated industries.

“We have 1,600 franchisees representing our brands worldwide, but fewer than 7% are owned by female sole proprietors and fewer than 4% of our front-line service professionals are women,” said Dwyer-Owens.

Women representing the Mr. Appliance franchise brand.

The trade industry has historically been a male-dominated career path. Often, women are unaware of the potential for success and personal fulfillment, which can be achieved by working as a trade technician. In addition, the opportunities that come with opening a franchise business specializing in a trade can lead to a highly rewarding career path and lifestyle.

“We are excited to open this opportunity for women interested in trade professions to further their curiosity, expertise and experience,” Dwyer-Owens said.

After the first “Undercover Boss” episode that Dwyer-Owens was featured in, along with Tanna Marino, a technician for Mr. Appliance, the company started receiving a plethora of phone calls and e-mails about women working in the trades.

“I had put a committee together, which is made up of men and women that work for our seven different brands,” said Dwyer-Owens. “That committee is responsible to get the message out and attract more women into the trades. My husband and I have a passion for this and we started a scholarship fund to help women with the actual training to get into a trade.”

According to Dwyer-Owens, the committee has even discussed the possibility of going into the high schools to start talking to young girls as they are considering their career paths.

“Not everyone goes to college, and many students don’t even think about the trades unless they were brought up in a family that is around a trade,” explained Dwyer-Owens. “We have also discussed going to technical campuses to tell those women already involved that there are job opportunities out there and within our franchises.”

Benefits of a challenging industry

“One of the fun, yet challenging things I see happening is that our franchisees are saying that a big challenge is finding good people to work on the front line,” said Dwyer-Owens. “Before the recession hit that was a challenge we had, and then with the recession we had a lot of the new construction folks that came into the service industry, and now they are back to new construction again. We are feeling this pinch, and we don’t have enough trained frontline professionals to work with our brands. I see that as a positive sign, that the economy is making an effort to turn around, but the need for good people to work the front line is big.”

“It makes sense to offer women interested in either changing their career paths or further pursuing their career in these industries the opportunity to become the best of the best through thorough training and education.”

Another area that offers a challenge is the many unemployed veterans.

“The unemployment for those folks the last time I looked was 21%,” said Dwyer-Owens. “We recently hired a marketing group to help us get in front of veterans that are coming back, so we can educate those women coming back or the wives of the men coming back, to educate them about opportunities in the trades and our scholarship program.

According to Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter, when “Undercover Boss” came out, featuring Marino, it brought the conversation of women in the trades back to the forefront.

“There are so many good opportunities in the world of service, plumbing, and in particular our Mr. Rooter brand that women may not be fully aware of nor consider in their search for a great profession to join,” said Kennedy Thompson. “Opportunities abound in Mr. Rooter for those looking to build a strong career in plumbing whether it’s as a service technician, customer service representative, or a manager. I’d encourage women to look at these fields for a career.”

Recent scholarship recipients

Just this spring, The Dwyer Group announced the three recipients of the 2013 Women in the Trades scholarship: Amanda Bolle, Jenna Dickens and Vicky Georgantopolous.

Dickens, who is currently employed by Aire Serv of the Sandhillsin Sanford, N.C., is an office manager and customer service representative. Sales rose steadily earlier this year for Aire Serv of the Sandhills, thanks in-part to Dickens’s weekly online coaching sessions with fellow employees. Her foundation of hard work and dedication, learned while growing up on a farm, guides her in promoting customer satisfaction.

Dickens possesses a desire to gain more knowledge about the HVAC world while promoting the industry to other women. She looks forward to the extra training and experience she will gain from this scholarship and plans to remain in this industry for years to come.

Bolle works for Rainbow International, parent company of the Dwyer Group, Etowah County, Gadsden, Ala., as a fire and water damage restoration technician. She will use this scholarship to gain Applied Structural Drying certification. A former bank employee, Bolle has embraced her role as a restoration technician and even prefers it to her old desk job because of the satisfaction she receives after a job well done.

“We do our job well,” Bolle said. “It’s my goal to continue to improve and become an expert in my industry to better serve our customers.”

Georgantopolous, who is currently a supervisor and assistant manager at the restaurant Digby’s, and lives in Ottawa, Ontario, plans to own her own HVAC company one day.  

“The thing that is most exciting is to see how many women are already working in the trades, these women are an unsung group,” said Heather McLeod, senior marketing manager at The Dwyer Group, who oversees the Women in the Trades program. “You don’t hear a lot about women working in plumbing, electrical, etc. As we reach out to other organizations to collaborate it’s great to hear all of these stories about all these women that have done amazing things and built great careers and lives for their families by leveraging working in the trades. It’s just been a rewarding experience.”   

Women in the Trades is accepting applications for a second round, due by Aug. 15. The Women in the Trades Scholarship is open to women 18 and older, interested in pursuing a career in the trades. Qualified candidates who are actively pursuing a degree or certification in a trade are encouraged to apply. Candidates will be evaluated based upon financial need, previous work experience, and their passion for their chosen industry. For more information and to apply: email [email protected].

The Dwyer Group Inc., based in Waco, Texas, is a holding company of seven franchise businesses, each selling and supporting a different franchise under the following service marks: Aire Serv, Glass Doctor, The Grounds Guys, Mr. Appliance, Mr. Electric, Mr. Rooter (Drain Doctor in the UK and Portugal), and Rainbow International. Collectively, these independent franchise concepts offer customers worldwide a broad base of residential and commercial services. Dwyer operates glass shops in New England under the Portland Glass brand name. The Dwyer Group is a portfolio company of TZP Group LLC, a private equity firm based in New York that focuses on control investments in business and consumer services companies with enterprise values generally up to $200 million.

About the Author

Candace Roulo

Candace Roulo, senior editor of CONTRACTOR and graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, has 15 years of industry experience in the media and construction industries. She covers a variety of mechanical contracting topics, from sustainable construction practices and policy issues affecting contractors to continuing education for industry professionals and the best business practices that contractors can implement to run successful businesses.      

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