Among the crowd at the NAOHSM trade show were students (from left) Sheree Heroux, Leeann Kozikis, and Kyrie Manning.
HARTFORD, Conn. - Among the thousands of attendees at the 51st Annual Convention of the National Association of Oil Heat Service Managers (NAOHSM) was a "small crowd" of three young women.

Female students studying disciplines in the oil heat industry are an unusual sight, but there at the Connecticut Expo Center in Hartford visiting manufacturer's booths were three female students from Howell Cheney Technical High School in nearby Manchester.

Kyrie Manning of Manchester, Leeann Kozikis of East Hartford, and Sheree Heroux of Stafford spent some of their day gathering information about manufacturers of oil heat equipment.

They slowed down long enough to talk with The News to offer some insight into why they are interested in the oil heat trade and share their career plans.

"HVAC sparked my interest when we were making toolboxes out of sheet metal," Manning said.

"We have an exploratory program that lets us try out 10 different shops," explained Kozikis. "I thought that HVAC was the one for me, and I've stuck with it since."

Getting a foot in the door has not been easy, according to Kozikis. "There are a lot of HVAC jobs, but I've had a hard time finding one," she said. "I think it may have something to do with the fact that I'm not 18 yet. I wanted to apprentice while I was in school, but I had no luck finding a job."

While Kozikis is contemplating a career as a technician and hopes to own her own business someday, Manning and Heroux are interested in going into sales. The students do not have a family background in HVAC, but all believe that more women should seek careers in the industry.

Manning said that women should not be discouraged to enter the HVAC trade because of their gender.

"Just because you are a woman, you shouldn't let any guys in the field look down at you," she said. "If you like it, go for it."

"Men seem to think that women are not able to do the job," said Heroux.

"Some boys think I'm dumb, but then they find out how much I know and they can't believe it."

Kozikis remarked, "Men hope I do well, but none of them believe I will want to stick it out. I'll show them."

Publication date: 06/21/2004