A pilot program in Elkhart designed to bring more women into the recreational vehicle industry has proven successful, and plans are already in place for growth. The RV Women’s Alliance, based in the St. Joseph County town of Osceola, partnered with the RV Technical Institute in Elkhart to establish the first all-female technician’s certification program. RVTI Director of Recruitment Tracy Anglemeyer says the partners sought 12 women for the pilot, but ended up doubling that number after receiving more than 100 applicants.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Anglemeyer said they discovered a barrier to entry into the RV industry for women of which they weren’t previously aware.
“The ladies felt more comfortable in this setting of being with other ladies to ask some questions. They said they never would’ve asked these questions and learn what they did learn if they were in a mixed environment,” said Anglemeyer. “So now, we’re learning a lot…of how to probably teach a little differently or open up the aspect of the room to all questions. The learning that occurs because of the questions that are asked was key to this.”
The RVTI says the women who participated in the pilot ranged in age from early 20s to early 60s. Some of the women had some RV mechanical experience while others had none.
The program taught a Level 1 technician curriculum, which Anglemeyer says focuses on seven different areas of an RV, including electrical, plumbing and propane systems. The RVTI website says a Level 1 technician is a “pre-delivery inspector (PDI) technician with a proven skill set to prepare an RV for customer delivery by verifying the operation of all components.”
Anglemeyer says the surge in applications was generated through word of mouth and social media sharing. She spoke to Inside INdiana Business from a trade show in Philadelphia and said she had also received questions and feedback about the program from other attendees.
“I’ve got people coming to me and saying, ‘Hey, didn’t you guys just do that all-women’s class? That’s great. How can we participate? How do you go?’ she said. “Dealers are coming and saying, ‘How can we help?'”
The partners are already planning more classes for 2023 in Elkhart and other parts of the country. Part of the expansion is a focus on limitations on class size in order to maximize learning among participants.
“We have some great partnerships in the RV industry when it comes to not only our dealerships but the manufacturers, the suppliers and wholesale distributors,” said Anglemeyer. “So, we have some additional sites that we can run with.”
The specific locations are still being determined. Anglemeyer says they are also working on a scholarship fund to help offset some of the costs for participants.
In addition to adding more Level 1 classes, Anglemeyer says the participants in the pilot cohort are wanting to go through Level 2 training together, which is a 200-hour course that focuses developing a skill set to diagnose, troubleshoot and repair all systems and components in an RV.
She says the partnership plans to work on a hybrid program for both levels in the future.