heating and cooling

Located in rural British Columbia, Lesley McGlenen has a much greater impact on the skilled trades than her small company would lead you to believe. Online, McGlenen goes by @ThePipeWench. She’s a plumber, gasfitter and hydronic professional. Most of her work is residential, but she dabbles in commercial work from time to time. From her Read more

Mechanical Hub, Taco Comfort Solutions, The Pipe Wench, Pipe Wench Plumbing and Heating, Lesley McGlenen, heating and cooling, plumbingLocated in rural British Columbia, Lesley McGlenen has a much greater impact on the skilled trades than her small company would lead you to believe.

Online, McGlenen goes by @ThePipeWench. She’s a plumber, gasfitter and hydronic professional. Most of her work is residential, but she dabbles in commercial work from time to time. From her shop in Scotch Creek, she travels to jobsites around Shuswap Lake, typically venturing up to two hours from home.

McGlenen’s father was a general contractor when she was young. She’d lend a hand where she could, cleaning up and helping on jobsites. Eventually, a plumbing contractor noticed her work ethic and offered her a job. She enjoyed the job for a while before trying her hand at cabinet making, all the while picking up skills that would aid her journey in the trades.

Mechanical Hub, Taco Comfort Solutions, The Pipe Wench, Pipe Wench Plumbing and Heating, Lesley McGlenen, heating and cooling, plumbingEventually, plumbing called her back and she endeavored to finish her plumbing apprenticeship. Today, 17 years later, she’s sole proprietress of Pipe Wench Plumbing, Ltd.

“I love this trade, and the variety it provides,” said McGlenen. “I’d get bored if I did the same thing day in and day out. The diversity of work creates a few challenges, but they’re not overwhelming. Different people, places and the occasional challenge keep me on my toes.”

She loves the job so much that she felt a calling to help other women become part of the skilled trade workforce.

A heart for women in the trade

“I want to impact and empower women to see the trades as a viable career,” said McGlenen. “There’s no proper direction in school. School systems aren’t asking young women what they really want to do. Even if they did, few would say they want to be plumbers, pipefitters or HVAC techs because the awareness isn’t there.”

McGlenen’s father didn’t push his own kids—two daughters and a son—toward the skilled trades because from personal experience how it can be hard on the body.

Mechanical Hub, Taco Comfort Solutions, The Pipe Wench, Pipe Wench Plumbing and Heating, Lesley McGlenen, heating and cooling, plumbing“Because the school system doesn’t present the trades as a high value career path, young men and women alike are left to find their own way. The big difference is that the skilled trades are more intimidating for potential female apprentices.”

“I hear comments from time to time that young women are afraid of sexual harassment on a jobsite full of men,” said McGlenen. “I’ll admit, I’ve encountered some of that, but it’s always been a ‘bad apple’ scenario. The vast majority of men I encounter at work are very respectful. The ones I worked with early in my career were great guys.”

“There’s one other thing to consider,” she continued. “As sad as it is, women will face harassment in any job. Harassment isn’t exclusive to the skilled trades and it shouldn’t hang over the trades like a dark cloud. And it goes both ways. Men face harassment in the workplace from women, too. Harassment should not be a deterrent from this industry, and the fact that it’s still perceived this way shows a lack of knowledge and poor communication on our part.”

There’s a trade shortage in general, and women represent only two percent of the field—that alone represents a huge opportunity and room for improvement.

Because women in the trades are still such a rarity, McGlenen believes it’s important for women who’ve found their path as trade pros to speak openly about the broad range of possibilities.

“Women represent half the global population, yet we’re a tiny fraction of the skilled trade industry,” she said. “Why aren’t women jumping into the industry? Why do we feel our only path to success lies in a college education? It’s lack of representation, and that’s what I want to change.”

Taking it to the turf

After moving to Scotch Creek in 2020, McGlenen, an avid golfer, planned to host 30 of her friends at her local golf course. Then an idea struck her.

“I had this big group of women coming to golf, so why not make it a benefit tournament?” she said. “So, I made it official.”

In 2023, the first annual Babes GDGT (Goddamn Golf Tournament) was held at the Talking Rock Golf in Chase, BC, which benefitted the Women in Trades program at Okanagan College. “Funds raised at the golf event helped provide what women in the program need, including making the transition from the program to employment.”

Mechanical Hub, Taco Comfort Solutions, The Pipe Wench, Pipe Wench Plumbing and Heating, Lesley McGlenen, heating and cooling, plumbing

“The goal of the event is to help women achieve the highest level of success possible in their selected skilled trade field,” said McGlenen. “We had 78 women at the golf tournament last year. That was a perfect number. Any more would have been too much for the first year, since I organized that event myself.”

McGlenen draws similarity between the trades and the game of golf. Both are arenas in which women often feel intimidated.

“I think it’s important for women to find excitement and challenge in golf – just as it is in the skilled trades,” she explained. “They need to make an initial push to overcome any hesitation they feel. I use golf as a business tool. Men do it, but women less so. The game can offer great networking opportunities. It’s just a matter of stepping out of your comfort zone.”

Intersecting interests

In 2022, McGlenen was signed into one of Taco Comfort Solutions’ Monday Night Live training sessions when Mike Miller, with Taco Canada, brought up the AHR Expo, suggesting that those in attendance meet up for a round of golf in Las Vegas.

So began the Taco Ryder Cup, in which a US team and a Canadian team go head-to-head on the golf course.

Mechanical Hub, Taco Comfort Solutions, The Pipe Wench, Pipe Wench Plumbing and Heating, Lesley McGlenen, heating and cooling, plumbing“It was great to meet Lesley in person and play golf with her, especially after seeing her on so many of our online training sessions,” said John Barba, Director of Training at Taco and an accomplished golfer. “She plays very well. For the record, Canada has beaten us both times, but neither of those losses were my fault! Lesley won both her matches and I won both of mine!”

“Meeting the Taco trainers and so many of the people I’d seen on social media was so much fun,” said McGlenen. “I became a part of their learning community during COVID and it’s been invaluable since.”

The COVID lockdowns increased the need for online training for tradespeople across North America, but for McGlenen, the remoteness of her shop means that she needs to look online for training opportunities anyway.

“It’s nearly a three-hour drive for me to get to a training session hosted by a rep or wholesaler, and if I want factory training, it requires airfare. Instead, I just sign in to the “Taco After Dark” or “Taco Tuesday” training sessions. I can learn a lot from Dave Holdorf, John Barba and Rick Mayo without leaving my office. The availability of Taco’s tech support crew and the training I’ve received online gives me the confidence to tackle things I may not otherwise undertake.”

Taco appreciates what McGlenen is doing for the trade, so they’ve stepped up as a key sponsor for the 2024 Babes GDGT event. Mechanical Hub has also stepped up to help support GDGT this year with sponsorships.

Babes GDGT moving forward

The next Babes GDGT (@BabesGDGT) golf event will be held at Talking Rock Golf on June 8, 2024, and it’s already sold out with 128 golfers, and more than a few on the waiting list.

Unfortunately, Okanagan College’s Women in Trades Program was recently cut due to lack of provincial funding. But there are other schools in BC with similar programs.

“The fact that the program was cut illustrates how important it is for the trades to present a compelling and attractive pitch to women,” said McGlenen. “We hope to raise twice as much money this year, and we’re taking a close look at how best to support women in the trades with the funds we raise in June.”

In McGlenen’s battle to increase the skilled trade workforce, she’s quick to remind all tradespeople, not just women, that there’s more than enough work to go around. “Me against you” is the wrong mindset.”

“I hope that offering a new perspective, and enthusiastic advocacy for the trades will help to shift the demographic of tradespeople in Canada,” she continued. “There’s so much opportunity!

“With broader awareness of the trades, especially among women, it could lead to a win-win for all—from home and business owners to everyone in the trades,” she said. “We need to collaborate and develop better processes. It’s realistic and achievable, and I’ll do everything I can to help.”

Virtual and simulation training isn’t necessarily new to the industry but its acceptance has been met with intrigue, and trepidation. But to say that this is the future of training? Not so fast. The consensus thoughts regarding this type of training is that will never replace in-person or on-the-job training, but it will become a Read more

Virtual and simulation training isn’t necessarily new to the industry but its acceptance has been met with intrigue, and trepidation. But to say that this is the future of training? Not so fast. The consensus thoughts regarding this type of training is that will never replace in-person or on-the-job training, but it will become a cog in the overall “wheel” for training assets.

According to Taco Comfort Solutions’ Product & Application Instructor-East, Dave Holdorf, Taco doesn’t want to change its training necessarily, rather seek to enhance the training experience.

“We ask many attendees how we can improve our classes and seminars.  One of the most frequent replies is: ‘Add a hands-on section to the class; the theory is great and useful, but I want to install.’

“In a classroom setting, this can sometimes be difficult for the space needed, the time it takes, and to accommodate the different skillsets of attendees. We believe we’re now on a track with virtual reality (VR) training to give that experience to attendees—whether they’re seasoned pros, or new to the trade. VR can help to guide participants in what to look for, and more importantly what not to do on a project,” says Holdorf.

VR Training, Simulation training, training, plumbing, HVAC, heating and cooling, Taco, Blue Recruit, Interplay Learning

F.W. Webb’s Michael DelConte checks out the VR display at the Taco booth during the AHR Expo.

Ken Midgett, former teacher and apprenticeship Instructor, Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, now Plumbing, Marketing Director with Interplay—whose mission statement is “Better Careers Better Lives”—believes that they can play a part in a person’s career trajectory with that person using Interplay’s content. “When a person engages in learning and increases both their fundamental knowledge and the steps to do a task, we are helping that person upskill and creating more career opportunities for them. The value of a product that interplay offers is the demand function. You do not have to wait until a class is offered you can just connect and learn,” says Midgett.

Adaptation to simulation and on-demand training is paramount to success for the learner and the business. Midgett says that traditional classroom learning for skilled trades is becoming more and more challenging for several reasons:

  • Finding good instructors: Many think that because they know a skill, they can teach it effectively. As a former educator, this is not always the case. This leads to poor instruction and marginal learners who are not engaged.
  • The cost: The cost of running and maintaining a hands-on training center is much higher than instructor salaries and consumables.
  • Change or die: Young learners are not inept at learning from lectures. Most skilled trade learners need to be engaged with learning and it must represent meaningful learning.
  • The disruption of classroom learning to the workday: A rationale for going to class in the evening for 2-3 hours is losing traction to young learners. Business owners become frustrated with learning times and days as they view this as unproductive time. Young learners need to be met where they are with training that fits their lifestyle.

Interplay Learning training, combined with the new employee with the right attitude who is coachable and willing to learn, can be an explosive combination with a win-win result. “Taking an apprentice and having them spend time training and learning with on-demand training and then pushing that person into the field with a skilled person to watch and do in the real world is the best way to train this person or persons at scale,” says Midgett, who says there are numerous other advantages to this model:

  • On-job efficiency increases as the apprentice now possesses the foundational knowledge and skills to perform a given task.
    • Relationships are better between the journeymen and the apprentice, as the journeyman perceives the apprentice as engaged and productive.
    • Business owners experience low turnover, better culture, and increased revenue as these new hires have direction and are leaning at scale.
    • Technicians feel confident in their work due to training and upskilling.
    • Callbacks are reduced and remediation training for the technician to increase their confidence
    • Service managers can focus on coaching and maintaining technician stats instead of being the only technical lifeline for numerous techs.
    • When sending these apprentices to “factory training,” they can engage and understand this much better due to the foundational knowledge.

Nonetheless, Midgett says there are a few things to note and understand about simulation and on-demand training:
• On-the-job or hands-on training with higher skilled supervision cannot be replaced.

  • Simulations are great at teaching steps and muscle memory of a task.
  • Simulation or any on-demand training cannot teach “feel.” As an example, simulation training cannot teach the skill of what “tight” feels like with a pair of wrenches on threaded steel piping or how tight to make a tank-to-bowl connection on a closet, or how tight a screw should be on the control board. This is what the onsite skilled person or journeyman must understand and teach effectively on site.

“While VR, AR and simulation-based technology are great resources, I do not think that any one particular learning system or style is the future,” says Rich Camacho, CEO & Co-Founder, BlueRecruit. Having said that, Camacho utilizes Interplay’s services (all of Interplay’s certifications and courses live on BlueRecruit, and when a person completes an Interplay course, they can then add that qualification to their BlueRecruit profile to strengthen their profile for Employer) and he thinks Interplay is a fantastic tool to augment in-class learning and a great launch point for someone either just entering the trades or seeking to upskill a particular technique.

“However, at the end of the day true craft mastery will occur in the field with a wrench. As technology continues to improve and costs continue to decline, Interplay will play a larger and larger part of building the next generation of skilled trades professionals and we’re excited to work alongside them in building “Better Careers and Better Lives,” says Camacho.

Falls Church, Va. — For plumbing and HVACR contractors who are eager to make a difference, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors—National Association (PHCC) is providing a timely opportunity to for them to do so by educating lawmakers during the May 21-22 PHCC Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. As part of the conference, PHCC will facilitate visits between PHCC Read more

Falls Church, Va. — For plumbing and HVACR contractors who are eager to make a difference, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors—National Association (PHCC) is providing a timely opportunity to for them to do so by educating lawmakers during the May 21-22 PHCC Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

As part of the conference, PHCC will facilitate visits between PHCC members and the offices of their elected representatives. The policy priorities for this year are:

  • Protecting America’s energy future through fuel choice,
  • Educating lawmakers on the costs and realities of building electrification,
  • And supporting workforce programs and registered apprenticeships.

First-time attendees shouldn’t be nervous, as the event will provide personalized coaching by PHCC’s federal lobbyists, an easy-to-use app to help you navigate your Capitol Hill visits, and much more.

In addition to hearing from PHCC’s and other industry experts, attendees will hear from this year’s keynote speakers:

  • Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX)
  • And Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA).

These speakers will provide an objective overview of the state of politics during this pivotal election cycle. A complimentary copy of their book, The Partisan Divide, will be given to all conference attendees.

Are we beyond using the COVID pandemic years of 2020-2021 as a benchmark for anything moving forward? Ok, this will be my last but I felt that AHR 2024 knocked it out of the park, with attendance numbers equaling that of shows past, pre-pandemic. I actually heard, and this hasn’t been verified as of yet Read more

Are we beyond using the COVID pandemic years of 2020-2021 as a benchmark for anything moving forward? Ok, this will be my last but I felt that AHR 2024 knocked it out of the park, with attendance numbers equaling that of shows past, pre-pandemic. I actually heard, and this hasn’t been verified as of yet, but the day one on-site registration was nearing record levels. And day two crowds were still buzzing as traffic on the floor filled the aisles. (THIS JUST IN FROM AHR: It was clear to anyone filling the halls on Monday morning of the show that attendance was strong, welcoming 48,034 attendees there to interact with the 1,875 exhibitors spread across North and South Halls. )

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

To a booth, everyone was satisfied with the turnout and conversations during the show. The show marked a return to business as usual, at a much more accelerated pace. And to think, this is during mid-January, polar vortex temps, no less. (Don’t miss next year’s show February 10-12 in Orlando.)

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

U.S. Boiler Co.’s Ambient Heat Pump

Technology, innovation and new products dazzled, with heat pumps and the push toward electrification still dominating the topics of conversation. We heard more of VR and simulation training as a trending topic as well, with Artificial Intelligence, Workforce Development, Decarbonization all playing big parts at the show.

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

The Mechanical Hub team had a busy three days shooting videos in-booth, recording both Make Trades Great Again and Appetite for Construction podcasts, and we were even asked to emcee—and be a part of—a Coffee with Caleffi panel in the Caleffi booth on Monday morning. There, hosts John Mesenbrink and Tim Ward talked with industry bigs John Siegenthaler, Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr, Eric Aune and Andy Mickelson.

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

The discussion revolved around lifelong learning in the trades: where do these legends go to learn? Forgetting more than most of us will ever learn, Siegenthaler and Rohr talked about outlets for learning and continued training. Aune and Mickelson gave the point of view from a current business owner and working contractor, and the impact of social media in today’s PHVAC trades.

We can’t forget about the after-parties and the go-to for us has always been the Taco event Monday evening. It’s a chance to meet up with old and new friends alike.

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

From l to r: Eric Aune, John Mesenbrink, Ben White, Tim Ward, Mike Prencavage, Jr.

One event I had the pleasure of attending—and it was my first time—was the HVAC Tactical Awards extravaganza held at the Planetarium downtown Chicago. I believe this was the fourth annual event, and the tagline, “It’s a mindset” is turning into “It’s a movement.” This was another great event to see good friends, and the idea of night of  “Blue Collar Goes Black Tie” can’t be overstated.

AHR EXPO, podcasts, appetite for construction podcast, HVAC, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVACR, Make Trades Great Again, Mechanical Hub

Ben Poole, HVAC Tactical

The industry needs events like this to showcase the trades in the best, shining light there is. And this event, with the red-carpet entry, exclusive red-carpet interviews, cocktail parties pre and post, and the awards ceremony, give this a gala-type feel, with everyone dressed to the nines, and I think everyone digs that vibe, at least for one night.

Links to AHR Expo Videos:

I wrote this “10 Tips ..” story in the early months of 2020, and we all know what happened after that, right? I thought it would be fun some four years later to amend the list accordingly. So here goes … … with the turn of every calendar year comes the rush of industry trade Read more

I wrote this “10 Tips ..” story in the early months of 2020, and we all know what happened after that, right? I thought it would be fun some four years later to amend the list accordingly. So here goes …

… with the turn of every calendar year comes the rush of industry trade shows. Next week we will be “traveling” to my hometown of Chicago for the AHR Show (January 22-24). Concurrently, during the same week, the WWETT show will be doing its thing in Indy (January 24-26). And if that wasn’t enough trade show hype for one week, the World of Concrete Show in Las Vegas is held, you guessed it, the same week (January 23-25).

Following that, we will be in Las Vegas toward the end of February for the IBS/KBIS Show (February 27-29). All of these shows are worth the trip, depending your trade specialty, and what’s most important to you. Normally, I recommend all of these shows but this year is sort of an anomaly so the MH team had to pivot accordingly; I hope you have chosen so as well, my friends.

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

The purpose for those attending is to see, feel and test new products, learn and network with fellow attendees. Oh, did I mention hanging out with friends and this awesome community? When attending these trade shows it is best to have a plan. Having attended dozens of these show in the past, I have come up with some tips and strategies to having a successful show.

1. Map Out Your Plan — All of these shows have corresponding websites with a list of exhibitors and events. Map out your day so you are the most efficient with your time, energy and steps on the trade show floor. (ahrexpo.com & www.worldofconcrete.com & www.wwettshow.com & www.buildersshow.com) I can’t stress enough to download the appropriate trade show app and make a plan. It’s a must.

2. Wear Comfortable Shoes & Clothing — We all want to look good, and professional, but gone are the days of stuffy apparel. I’d rather feel comfortable and fresh at the end of the day than out of sorts, sweaty and my dogs barking.

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

3. Give Yourself Enough Time — The stress of a trade show can be daunting in and of itself. Take as much time as you need to take a deep breath and move freely on the show floor. It’s always a good idea to come in the day or night before a show to make sure all is in order and registration for the show is set. If you are planning a night out, make sure you make any necessary reservations ahead of time.

4. Afterparty Over-Indulging — We all love to go out and enjoy ourselves, especially after a long day at a show. There are numerous manufacturer parties, dinners, soirees, etc. where one can relax and wind down. But staying out all night—and drinking—can be fun, and up to your discretion, but it isn’t advisable, especially if you intend to be at the show the following day. Nobody is impressed with the over-perspired, alcohol lingering on breath, bags under the eyes, headache pounding visit from on over-served attendee. Also, carry water and/or energy drinks and energy bars—or something to snack on—with you.

5. Plan Accordingly for Transportation — Most of the time at busy trade shows, transportation can, well, be a bitch, especially after a show. Keep this in mind as long taxi lines will form to and from the shows. Download your favorite rideshare app so you are locked and loaded.

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

6. Visit the Podcast Pavilions — Everyone listens to podcasts, yes? Some of your favorite listens (Appetite for Construction & Make Trades Great Again, among others) will be recording “live” from the podcast pavilions located just in front of the North Hall to the right as your facing the entrance, behind registration and conveniently located by the beer garden. So grab a favorite beverage, relax and enjoy the p-casts!

7. Badges, We Don’t Need No Stinking’… — Well, make sure you have proper badges for the show. For example, attendee, exhibitor and press badges all provide different access and different access times. Make sure you understand the limitations of your particular given badge.

8. Follow-up with Contacts — Once the show is over, what it your end game? What better way to measure the results of a show personally than to document leads, follow up with new contacts, and were you satisfied with your expectations of information, contacts and overall impressions?

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

9. If Unable to Attend … — Be sure to follow your favorite social media outlets (@mechanicalhub & @plumbing_perspective for sure!) that may be attending and keep up to date on what’s going on from the show floor. First-of-the-year trade show events are when companies have big product announcements, launches and press briefings.

10. Cellular/WiFi Service — Most shows do not offer WiFi on the show floor, or if they do, it usually sucks. There are certain spots at different venues you may be able to sneak a signal, maybe. Make sure you have business cards on hand or be prepared to exchange info digitally through apps on your phone, so make sure your phone is charged or bring extra chargers!

Like deducing the age of a tree by counting its rings, I count age as it relates to how many AHR shows I have attended. I think I count 20 AHRs, 2021 notwithstanding. Good luck, have a great time, and have a great trade show experience!