The HARDI member spotlight serves as a regular feature through which the association management highlights standout individuals in the HVACR industry and their companies. For our October 2019 Member Spotlight, we spoke with Colleen Leppert, Senior Vice President at BLUE HAWK Cooperative and Board Member for Women in HVACR. We highlight Colleen for all of the service she has given to helping women succeed in the HVACR industry.
How did you get into the HVACR industry?
I had been involved in starting purchasing cooperatives in various industries for many years when Dan Bleier from Able Distributors in Chicago recommended we form a new cooperative in the HVACR Industry. It has been a wonderful experience. This year is BLUE HAWK’S 15 year anniversary and earlier this year we announced that we had become a founding member-owner of the IMARK Group along with IMARK Electrical and IMARK Plumbing. We are excited about the opportunities to use our collective scale to support our distributors in the HVACR, plumbing and electrical supply chains.
Tell us about your experience participating in Women in HVACR (WHVACR).
It has been so exciting to witness the explosive growth over the last few years in terms of membership, industry sponsorship and the impact WHVACR is having on the industry.
What does that impact on the industry look like?
One way to quantify our success is through statistics that provide insight into the growing reach of the organization. For 2019 so far:
- WHVACR currently has about 650 members with about 4,200 followers thru our Social Media platforms.
- Awarded 7 educational scholarships during 2019
- 79 Companies are Sponsoring or Partnering with WHVACR for 2019
- 109 women participating (YTD) in our Mentorship Program
- In addition to our Annual Conference, we will typically host an event or participate in 8 or 9 additional industry events.
- We recently significantly enhanced our Job Posting site. Our sponsors can place job postings at no cost. We are currently posing 2 – 6 new jobs per week.
- Our newest initiative is our Ambassador Program. We currently have 20 ambassadors across the US; our goal is one in every state. The Ambassador program is equipping women across the US with presentation materials, handouts, talk points and knowledge to be able to conduct outreach at schools and job fairs. Email Colleen at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in finding out how to become an WHVACR Ambassador.
What have you personally gained by joining WHVACR?
For me the benefits I have enjoyed the most are the mentorship and networking opportunities. We have a very strong mentorship program. Twice a month we have a ZoomIn web call on various educational topics that allows our members to network on a bi-monthly basis, and in addition to our Annual Conference, we have networking events at many other conferences and trade shows throughout the year. Building relationships is an important part of what we do.
What are some of the problems and challenges women in the HVACR industry are focusing on?
The industry as a whole, at all levels, has a need to attract and retain employees.
WHVACR is doing multiple things to try to combat this issue. Our new ambassador program provides education about the industry, our scholarship program has been growing rapidly through increased support from our sponsors, and at our conference this year we just rolled out the start of our new media campaign aimed at encouraging women to explore careers in the HVACR Industry. We also have a robust online job site service that is getting a lot of traction.
What excites you in regards to the future of the WHVACR association?
Our Industry Sponsorship has been more than doubling year over year for the past few years. It has been great to see the support not only from the major equipment suppliers but so many suppliers in the industry are supporting us along with wholesalers, contractors and service vendors. The growth in sponsorship has allowed us to provide more value. Anyone interested in finding out more about sponsoring WHVACR can email me at email@example.com.