By REGINA DENNIS firstname.lastname@example.org |
The Dwyer Group is looking for more local women to apply for a scholarship aimed at helping women pursue technical and trade careers.
The Waco-based company is kicking off the fourth awards cycle for its Women in the Trades Scholarship Program.
The scholarship is worth $1,500. It can be used at any accredited technical or trade school to obtain training in plumbing, restoration, landscaping, HVAC service or electrical, glass and appliance repair.
But only 21 women have applied for the scholarship since it began in 2012. Of the nine winners so far, none are from the Waco area.
That’s something The Dwyer Group executive chairwoman Dina Dwyer-Owens hopes will change as she continues to push for more women to enter trade fields.
“I think historically there’s been low interest because women don’t typically think about themselves in the trades, but I do know more and more women are considering it now because they’re seeing more women in it,” Dwyer-Owens said.
“It’s a matter of having enough confidence in yourself, and that’s one of the things women struggle with is confidence. But if they really do know the trade, if they really do know how to make the repairs, that’s all it takes is one job and you show the customer, ‘I do know what I’m doing here.’ ”
Dwyer-Owens started the scholarship after her first experience on CBS’ “Undercover Boss,” in which she assumed the identity of a trainee looking to become a service technician within one of the seven home repair franchises in The Dwyer Group.
One segment of the show centers on her interactions with Tanna Marino, a Houston-area Mr. Appliance technician and former stay-at-home mom. Marino told the undercover Dwyer-Owens that a Mr. Appliance franchise owner who serviced her refrigerator asked her firefighter husband to consider a part-time job with him, but she decided to jump on the opportunity instead.
Marino is now part of the The Dwyer Group’s corporate team for the Mr. Appliance brand and also sits on the Women in the Trades committee.
“We had 647 women that contacted us within the first week after the show aired that said, ‘How do I become a technician with one of your brands?’ ” Dwyer- Owens said.
“For years I’ve wanted more women to be involved in the trades, and I have just struggled with how do we get the message out that this is available to them . . . ‘Undercover Boss’ ended up being the outlet.”
Dwyer-Owens said only about 4 percent of technicians in the company’s franchises are women, but she wants to make it close to 50 percent of the workers.
Dwyer-Owens said having more female technicians can improve a franchise’s relationship with customers. For example, she thinks a female technician may be more comforting to certain clients, such as single or elderly women uneasy with male repairmen in their homes for extended work.
Technical trades can also be quite lucrative. Dwyer- Owens said an entry-level drain cleaner may earn $35,000 a year, while some plumbers may gross $150,000. The Dwyer Group also offers discounts on franchise fees to employees based on their years of service through its Hiring Individuals, Recruiting Entrepreneurs (HIRE) program.
“I think it offers women an opportunity they’ve never thought of or considered,” Dwyer-Owens said. “The career path in the trades is that you learn it, and then you can end up owning your own business one day.”
Frances Worthey is director of student life at Texas State Technical College, which has a Women in Technology student support group. Those students trade stories and advice on topics like being surrounded by mainly male peers and balancing their school, work and family lives.
“Sometimes what one person is experiencing in a field can help another person who may have felt isolated or may have felt they were an island by themselves,” Worthey said. “That’s where convincing them that concept of, ‘I can, you can, too,’ comes into play.”
Worthey said a technology scholarship program for women serves as a powerful motivator to help more female students stick with their career plans.
“There are lots of women out there that need career changes, that need to be made aware of technical education and the many opportunities that are available to women, and with that they need the incentive and the encouragement to make that step forward,” Worthey said.
How to apply
The Dwyer Group is accepting applicants for its Women in the Trades scholarship program.
Female applicants must be 18 or older and pursuing technical education or training in plumbing, restoration, landscaping, HVAC service or electrical, glass or appliance repair.
The scholarship is worth $1,500. Deadline to apply is Sept. 30.