TOLEDO, OH — Victoria Kamm and Galen Bennett realize the important role that women play in hvacr purchases, and they want to take that buying power one step further by bringing more women into hvacr careers. They also want to be a “clearinghouse” for consumers who are looking for qualified contractors to perform installation and service work.

With these goals in mind, The Certification Project was founded here in Toledo.

“Women are the decision-makers and heavily influence 80% of all hvacr purchases, yet make up only 1.5% of the industry,” said Kamm. “The Certification Project, a nonprofit organization, was formed to give women the information they need to make good choices in selecting contractors, to highlight accredited hvacr programs, and to provide scholarships.”

Kamm, a 20-year veteran of the hvacr trade, said, “We are so short of help in this industry; it’s a common topic of conversation. Still we can’t seem to find the key to recruiting women and other minorities.

“I believe there are several reasons: The ‘Dateline’ portrayal of our industry, the relative newness of large numbers of women entering college and graduating with professional degrees, and a general ignorance of what it takes to become successful.”

The key components of The Certification Project involve contractors and educators. Kamm wants to include a contractor database (in designated markets) based on feedback from contractors who have proof of licensing, insurance, bonding, and additional information like memberships in community groups, including the Better Business Bureau.

“I am not asking for proprietary information, only the basics needed for consumers to make a buying decision,” Kamm said. “And the information should be updated every year, with a fee attached.”

Kamm said she has talked with educators in the Toledo area who would be willing to offer hvacr scholarships, “if they could find any women who would enroll.”

“The goal of The Certification Project is to provide scholarships. Just giving out information about our industry is not enough. We can recruit all day long but if we can’t find the money to help women get into school it won’t make any difference. All profits [from contractor fees] at the end of the year will go to that.”

Kamm is also very big on making the project bilingual. One of her staff members is bilingual and she plans to drum up support for her project by speaking before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC.

“Women are already uncomfortable dealing with hvacr companies,” Kamm said. “I can’t imagine how difficult it must be if English is not your first language.”

Kamm and Bennett have been funding the project so far, but they have applied for a grant. Kamm added that The Certification Project website will be “live” in early March. The URL is

Kamm said she feels as strongly about this as anything she has ever done. “We are looking for support from the industry, schools, and local contractors. But we’ve already got the infrastructure to make it happen. All we have to do now is run at it as hard as we can.”

For more information, contact The Certification Project at 419-324-4802; 866-422-5183 (fax).

Publication date: 02/25/2002