This Class is Ladies Only

Two industry organizations launch the first all-female RV technician training, garnering a turnout that far exceeded expectations.

When women come together to learn and accomplish, the outcome becomes even larger than individual goals and dreams.

Such is the case with a new RV technician course for ladies only, launched this month by a partnership between the RV Women’s Alliance (RVWA) and the RV Technical Institute (RVTI). The two originally opened 12 spots in the pilot class – not expecting to double that number after receiving 110 applications.

“It kind of went viral online,” says Susan Carpenter, president of RVWA. “We were able to get (participants) from a campground, supplier, dealership, full-time RVer … we even had eight women from outside the industry.”

RVTI training
The women earned their Level 1 certification and can go immediately to work in the industry.

The week-long course provided RVTI’s Level 1 tech training free of charge for participants, along with a hotel stay for the those traveling to the class’s location in Elkhart. And while RVWA only budgeted for 12 rooms, Carpenter says there were enough Indiana locals with accommodations to support more seats in class.

Students tackled intense training and testing for five days. Their comfort level and enthusiasm for learning was contagious, Carpenter explains – and that wasn’t the only thing she was “mind blown” by.

“At night, the ladies had study groups in the hotel lobby. They did that on their own,” she says. “You want to talk about camaraderie, right? We learned, and had suspected, that when you take down that barrier to entry, women come out to play.”

Participants took home more than just their certifications on Friday, Aug. 5. Carpenter says RVWA’s partnerships with companies such as Lippert, Camping World, Forest River and THOR Industries supplied a list of job openings in need of a Level 1 RV technician – a field currently lacking enough qualified workers.

“That was a great giveback to our partners,” she says. One student exchanged info with a dealership for a potential marketing internship. Another woman and full-time RVer wasn’t expecting to apply her new knowledge in a job, but gained connections to Lippert’s consumer-based Scouts program.

Lunches sponsored by companies including Mobile RV Pro, Pinnacle Appliances, Truck System Technologies, Go Power! and more sent representatives to offer students insight from all industry segments. Cocktail receptions were grounds for participants to mingle further with industry members.

“We knew it would be good, but it was phenomenal,” Carpenter says. “It was just mind-blowing what these women were able to accomplish, and how they did it – with grace and style and enthusiasm.”

Setting Sights High

(L-R) Karen Barnett, president, Valley Screen Printing and RVWA board member; Crystal Miller, customer service and training manager for Dometic; and Sharonne Lee, operations, RV Technical Institute

The right participants for RVWA and RVTI’s first all-female tech training was intentional, Carpenter says. The Alliance’s five-person team voted on candidates that covered different market segments.

“This class will be our grounds to launch many more classes,” she says. “We surveyed these ladies, who will help develop upcoming programs for next year. We want their input and ideas as a sounding board.”

Carpenter says the class already expressed a desire to complete RVTI’s Level 2 training as a group. That bond is being furthered in other programs, she says, such as RVWA’s own “mini-LinkedIn” software for female RV techs, where women can exchange info and share experiences.

Upcoming classes are in the works for 2023, with programs planned to stretch nation-wide, Carpenter says. The Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping (PRVCA) has already offered its training facilities for a potential future course. Scholarship money for travel expenses and training will be limited and based on application, but Carpenter says the classes themselves will likely be open to all women who have the means to pay for it.

Although Friday was a day to celebrate the pilot class’s accomplishments, Carpenter touches on the tragic news of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski’s recent death, who represented Indiana’s 2nd District and planned to hand out certificates to the class.

Because of the overwhelming response to the class, some out-of-town students stayed with Elkhart locals because there were no more hotel rooms in the budget.

“(Walorski) was a huge supporter of RVWA. She came to Drab to Fab, our breakfasts, anything we invited her to. She was a huge champion for us,” Carpenter says. “She fought Capitol Hill for anything RV and lived and breathed our industry. You can’t find that these days. It was a gut punch for all of us.”

Rep. Walorski, whose district was home to most of the RV industry’s manufacturing sector, and two of her staff members were killed in a car accident on Aug. 3. Carpenter says the Alliance plans to keep her spirit alive in its future endeavors.

To read more about the first all-female tech training class, visit the RV Women’s Alliance or RV Technical Institute pages on Facebook. Visit RVTI.org to find out how to become a certified RV technician for as little as $300.

Jordan Benschop

Jordan Benschop is managing editor of RV PRO.

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