A pilot program in Elkhart aimed at bringing more women into the recreational vehicle industry has proven successful and plans for growth are already in place. The RV Women’s Alliance, based in the town of Osceola, St. Joseph County, has partnered with the RV Technical Institute of Elkhart to establish the first-ever all-women technician certification program. Tracy Anglemeyer, director of recruitment at RVTI, 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 for women into the RV industry that they hadn’t previously been aware of.
“The ladies felt more comfortable in this environment where they could be with other ladies to ask some questions. They said they never asked those questions and never learned what they would have learned if they were in a mixed environment,” Anglemeyer said. “So we’re learning a lot now… like maybe teaching something different or opening up the aspect of the space for all questions. The key to this was the learning that comes from the questions asked.”
According to RVTI, the women who participated in the pilot were in their early 20s to early 60s. Some of the women had some experience in RV mechanics, while others had none.
The program taught a Level 1 technician curriculum that Anglemeyer said focuses on seven different areas of an RV, including electrical, plumbing, and propane systems. The RVTI website states that a Level 1 technician is a “Pre-Delivery Inspector (PDI) technician with demonstrated skills to prepare an RV for customer delivery by verifying the operation of all components.”
Anglemeyer says the surge in applications was generated by word of mouth and social media sharing. Speaking to Inside Indiana Business from a trade show in Philadelphia, she said she also received questions and feedback about the program from other attendees.
“I’ve got people coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey, didn’t you guys just do that all-girls class? That’s great. How can we participate? How is it going?’ She said. “Merchants come and say, ‘How can we help?'”
The partners are already planning further courses for 2023 in Elkhart and other parts of the country. Part of the expansion is a focus on class size limitations to maximize learning among participants.
“We have some great partnerships in the RV industry, which not only affects our dealers, but also the manufacturers, suppliers and wholesalers,” said Anglemeyer. “So we have some additional sites to work with.”
The specific locations are yet to be determined. Anglemeyer says they are also working on a bursary fund to offset some of the costs for participants.
Anglemeyer says that in addition to adding more Level 1 courses, participants in the pilot cohort plan to complete Level 2 training together, a 200-hour course focused on developing skills to diagnose, troubleshoot, and repair all systems and components concentrated in a mobile home.
She says the partnership plans to work on a hybrid program for both tiers in the future.