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hrai1october3“It started when Bob lied to me. He said if we start our own business we can pick our own hours and take vacations whenever we want,” jokes Nancy McKeraghan, General Manager at Canco Climatecare. “Anyone who is self-employed knows that’s not true.”

She is talking about her decision to partner with her husband Bob in 1984, rather than returning to her teaching position, once her children started school. Since then Nancy has become a dominant figure in a highly successful business, and also in the HVAC sector in Canada. In addition to heading up all of the business functions at Canco, McKeraghan became an HRAI director, joined the marketing committee, chaired the contractors division, and eventually became Chairperson for the entire HRAI. She is still an active member of the careers committee, organizing skills competitions and mentoring young people who are considering entering the HVACR business.

A life long learner and teacher, she says: “One of my favourite things to do is the skills event at CMPX. Just standing at the escalator and seeing people, young and old, with glints in their eyes because they have just been exposed to things they’ve never seen before...that lights my fire.”

She attributes success to continuous learning and getting involved with others in the industry, sharing best practices and horror stories, learning to avoid costly pitfalls before they happen.

“There were times when I was disrespected because I was a woman. Someone would ask me something, didn’t trust the answer, and asked to speak to an owner. I would tell them you’re speaking to an owner. Occasionally they would press the issue and I would refer them to Bob. Quite often he would say, ‘Well if you want the answer to that question, you’ll have to ask Nancy.’”

“I think those days are behind me now, my opinion is valued and I seem to have credibility in the industry.” She advises young people to do as she did and take as much training as possible to upgrade their knowledge and join associations such as the HRAI. She also suggests the two-year course at community college as a starting point.

“First of all it makes you immediately employable in a multi-billion dollar industry that is facing an acute shortage of qualified personnel. Then for you personally, you will be exposed to a little bit of HVAC, plumbing, sheet metal, refrigeration, electricity, and so on, so you can figure out what you like. There is so much opportunity in this business from project management to technical positions to customer service.”

The field of HVACR is becoming more attractive to young women and men, according to McKeraghan, because of all the exciting new technologies and communication innovations, beautiful designer products, including smart home technology and because it offers an opportunity to make a difference with efficiencies and our climate challenges. “And you get that great feeling of immediate accomplishment when you help someone. You walk into a house that has no heat, correct the problem and when you walk out, they have heat.”

“The recent worldwide climate strikes show just how seriously we must take this problem and the good news is that this industry is at the forefront of providing green solutions. It means that people can make a difference on a daily basis, providing modern technology and answers. Everyone in our industry should be learning about the evolving technology. We have a responsibility as citizens of the world and also because it’s just smart business to keep up with what’s new and have an edge over the competition. And of course if we want to hire young talent we know that modern clean technology is a way to attract them. At Canco we take co-op students. It’s gratifying to see them move on and succeed. And if we decide to hire them ourselves, we don’t have to untrain them.”

“Efficient solutions are important to our customers and to our employees. At Canco we are strong believers in performance-based contracting. On every call we do static pressure testing to ensure the system is operating correctly and make or suggest improvements to increase its efficiency and comfort. Until you tweak them, heating systems might be 57% efficient, despite the furnace rating. AC might be as low as 30% efficient.”

McKerighan says contractors are facing a quickly changing world of different building approaches, precision load calculations, electronics, decarbonization, new natural refrigerants and young talent, including women who care about efficiency and cleaner systems. Adding capable, detail-oriented women is one way to win in this environment. And there’s a good chance they will one day become inspiring leaders like Nancy McKeraghan.

Link: https://www.cancoclimatecare.com/

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