Today, Parkland Hospital is noteworthy for employing a rare breed of worker: a female refrigeration technician. Shabretta Manning is an enthusiastic supporter of the hospital and the trade.
“I enjoy the work and the people I work with,” she told The News. “I’ve never felt that there was any prejudice toward me because I am a woman.”
Manning started the rise to her current position as “Refrigeration Lead Man” as far back as her high school days. Born and raised in Dallas, she joined the U.S. Navy, where she spent three years working on turbine engines, generators, and boilers. She also had the opportunity to travel around the world, including stops in Hong Kong and Japan.
Manning said that after the navy stint, she had planned to go into tech school with her husband to learn the refrigeration trade. As it turned out, she stayed with the plan while her husband changed his mind. She said he has always remained supportive of whatever she wanted to do.
“I attended the local tech school where I took classroom training and on-the-job training,” she said. “I was the only female out of 15 students.”
During her training, Manning apprenticed at Parkland Hospital. After 11 months, she received her hvac certification and began her career full time at Parkland.
“I could have gone anywhere I wanted to, but I was already working here [at Parkland],” Manning said. She has now been there for two years.
Is her boss worried about losing a good worker? “He encourages me to go to school,” she replied.
Manning said the six-person staff is kept very busy servicing the chillers and a/c units in the hospital and any one of 11 other clinics within the Parkland Health and Hospital System.
Each of the community clinics has a full-time maintenance person. Area hvacr contractors have worked on new installations for the facilities. But when the need arises, the staff at Parkland is summoned to help out.
“This is all-season work,” Manning added. “I’d say I spend about 75% of my time outside, in all kinds of weather. The worst part about the job is the heat. During the hot weather we usually work from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m.”
Manning said she prefers to solve problems by herself, only calling a coworker if necessary. “I keep trying until I get it right,” she said. “You have to learn a lot of patience to do this kind of work.”
Manning was promoted to lead man after a year on the job. “There was competition for the position and there were hard feelings when I got it,” she said. “But I got the position because of hard work.”