When the first all-female class met at the RV Technical Institute to learn and earn their Level 1 certification, the sponsors of the program had more in mind than just teaching the women about their RVs. Their goal, according to Director of Recruitment Tracey Anglemeyer, was to help get women techs into the RV industry.
“We wanted to give all of these ladies insight into how techs are utilized throughout the industry – and how much they are needed,” said Anglemeyer, who had invited a dealer, a supplier, and an owner of a mobile tech business to speak to the 24-member class.
Of the 120 applications received for the program, nearly 70% came from outside of the industry. Among those accepted from within were women from Keystone, Forest River, Dometic, and others.
“We were happy to be a part of this first training program – the women were all very eager to learn,” said Mike Benson, National Sales Manager for Truck System Technologies (TST). The company sponsored a lunch for the class and Benson demonstrated how to set up its tire pressure monitoring system in RVs, a task that is typically conducted during Pre-Delivery Inspections (PDI) at dealerships.
Benson has seen a lot of women in other areas of service departments, e.g., as service advisors, parts managers, and administrative support, but he notes, “There is so much opportunity for RV techs and so many areas in which they can spread out within industry.”
Mollee Veurink, Creative Marketing Director at Veurink’s RV Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a member of the RV Women’s Alliance, spoke to the women of the roles for RV techs at dealerships.
“If an RV tech is particularly great with customers, she may conduct PDIs and introduce the various features and functions of the RV to the new owner. For first-time RV owners, this requires a lot of patience to answer all of their questions. If the RV tech is highly skilled mechanically, she may work more on diagnostics and repairs.”
Campgrounds are realizing that they need RV techs, too, according to Anglemeyer. “RV owners can’t always get their units to a dealership; they may be stuck in a campground, for instance.”
The RV Technical Institute is in discussion with Kampgrounds of America (KOA) and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) about certification training and placement of certified techs, as well as with numerous dealerships around the country. This reflects the growing need for mobile RV techs, which can be a more flexible career opportunity for working mothers and caretakers.
That is one of the things that inspired April Wright to found Do It Wright RV Services in South Texas in 2018. The mother of a then-6-year-old son, Wright and her 18-year-old daughter, Abigail, both became certified RV technicians.
“You can schedule your work around childcare and only work evenings or mornings, or take long breaks during the day,” she said. “You can also decide whether you’ll take off-hour emergency calls.”
“This is more than a job and a career, it’s a lifestyle that enables you to travel from park to park and to see the world,” continued Wright. “Most women don’t know these options exist, but this lifestyle is a real thing.”
Furthermore, according Anglemeyer, RV tech jobs are well-paying, stable, and offer many benefits. While RV sales may wax and wane, the tech side doesn’t seem to be affected. “If people aren’t buying new RVs, they’re maintaining and fixing up older ones. So, techs are always needed.”
The Right Women for the Job
As the recent all-female RVTI program demonstrated, women, who often seem more detail-oriented than their male counterparts, are well-suited for tech jobs. In fact, said Veurink, her service department manager, who had previously worked in the automobile industry, said that all of his best mechanics were female.
“The women most likely to succeed as RV techs are problem-solvers who have initiative, who like hands-on work and follow processes correctly, and who take pride in their work,” said Anglemeyer. “To them, there is nothing better than trouble-shooting, figuring out how to fix things, making customers happy, and getting them back out camping again.”
Wright, who hopes to start an apprenticeship program for female RV techs in East Kentucky, believes the field is ripe for recruiting women from America’s rural and impoverished areas who have technical and mechanical skills and who are used to doing physical work.
“Grab people from farm areas – they’re more likely to embrace this,” she said. “There are others who have never had the opportunity or who don’t know that this can be fun and a good career.”
Economically challenged areas are places where women can feel looked over or passed over, Wright believes. “They’re not told that they can have big dreams, so they’re not dreaming or considering opportunities like this,” she said.
AT the RV Technical Institute, Anglemeyer has been meeting with the Correctional Educators Association to conduct training programs at women’s prisons, like the one held at the Linda Woodman State Jail in Gatesville, Texas. These, she believes, can change lives.
Barriers to Entry
Anglemeyer has also been attending American School Counselors Association and high school events throughout the country, letting them know about RV tech careers and the big demand for them.
“We didn’t realize there was an awareness issue—that women can have rewarding tech careers – until I started going to these events,” she said.
While the success of the all-female RV Technical Institute program has the industry talking about an exciting solution to the RV tech shortage, Wright and Anglemeyer both hope these will become unnecessary as more women enter – and succeed – in the service side of the RV industry.
“Training is about empowerment,” said Wright. “Women gain confidence in possessing knowledge and skills. People will question them, but they just have to believe in themselves.”
Anglemeyer urges women to contact the RV Technical Institute if they have an interest in becoming an RV tech. The Institute works with the entire industry and there are tech jobs throughout the country, so she typically starts the conversation by asking where the caller is from, where she is going or wants to go, and what kind of work she’s interested in. Anglemeyer also suggests that women contact the RV Women’s Alliance or just stop by an RV dealership to inquire about training and employment.
“We’re educating the industry about the opportunities for women, and training is key to knowing the safe and proper way to service an RV,” she said. “The women who came to our certification program wondering if they could do this found out that, yes, they can!”
The RV industry is very relational, Wright believes, “it’s not just selling random products, but selling experiences that make memories.”
“I want women to feel welcome,” she said. “If we band together, we can make big things happen. We just have to believe in ourselves.”