De Young becomes first female PHCC president
On Feb. 9, at the Three Bears Resort in Warrens, Wis., Countryside Plumbing and Heating president Carol De Young was sworn in as the first female Plumbing, Heating, & Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) of Wisconsin president.
"It is an honor to represent women in general and to be able to show that we can do these things, especially in an industry that is so male dominated as plumbing, heating and cooling," De Young said. "We want more females to get involved in our businesses and such. It is a natural progression, but it is still a hard time."
Although De Young was proud of being named the first female president of the PHCC, she was even more proud of being able to represent this part of the state.
"That is the part that I'm most proud...To have someone representing this side of the state is huge," De Young said. "That's because so many of the other contractors on the board of directors are from....the major cities in the state and very seldom do we have representation up here. It is very hard, as with anything, to stay involved because we are so removed from all of it and it is hard to stay focused on what is really happening here. I'm very proud to represent this part of the state that is underappreciated at times."
DeYoung has been on the PHCC board of directors for the last eight years. She was invited to be on the board eight years ago for two reasons, she said. Firstly, she was selected because she represented the district that covers the New Richmond area, and, secondly, the board liked the idea of having a female on the board. De Young has worked her way up over the last eight years from secretary to treasurer to vice president and now president.
"In some other roles that I have had, I've seen more interest in the industry from women. For example, there is a group I am involved in called 'Women in HVAC.' It is very inspiring to know what an integral part women are playing in all of our businesses....but we have also seen how underappreciated we have allowed ourselves to become," De Young said. "I came in as Jim's wife and that's how I got started here. And I was very comfortable with that for many years and it was an honor in and of itself just to be part of the team building this company. But it was his company. Since he has retired and I've become president, I've learned to appreciate the honor it is to really feel more of an ownership in it....We take ourselves for granted because the guys are doing the work, except for the fact that we are all working for the same goal and have the same success."
As president, De Young has used her new position to further emphasize her desire to get more women interested in the industry and make sure that women know they are valued members of any business.
"Those are the kinds of messages I've been putting into my speeches since I've taken over as president, is that — at the very minimum — guys appreciate the women, because try to run a business without them. It would be very difficult. It is just to take someone, both women and men, for granted when they are doing a good job," De Young said. "Women just tend to tolerate it more and not recognize that they aren't appreciated very much sometimes."
According to De Young, the PHCC holds meetings six times a year, but she could be called in at any time for additional meetings or for legislative situations in Madison when the group is lobbying for code issues. The term length for PHCC president is two years.
"At this point in my life, I've got a huge passion for the industry and for the community," De Young said. "I attribute that to the fact that the industry and the community are what have made me successful. That is part of the reason I'm passionate about getting more young people involved in the industry, because that is my way of paying it forward. And paying back the industry for the success I've enjoyed. I'm very grateful."
One of De Young's main goals for her presidency is to continue to address the industry's dwindling workforce.
"There is projected to be a huge shortage of qualified workers in the near future because our young people aren't going into the trades. And that's not specific to plumbing and heating, that's pretty much across the board," De Young said. "That is a huge goal of mine, is to be more proactive in that process of workforce development.
"I recently spoke to two classes at the high school about the opportunities that are available to our young people aside from a four-year college, whether it is vocational school or apprenticeships. There are huge opportunities there and they are really rewarding careers. I'm encouraging our contractors to start a conversation with their school districts, because that is where it all starts."
Not only does the lack of workers hurt the industry as a whole, but if more workers don't enter the industry soon, the most experienced people who would be best suited to training in the next batch of industry workers will retire before getting the chance to teach the next generation. That could lead to a shift in the quality of skills of future workers, De Young said.
The second goal De Young has for her presidency is to make more programs and benefits available to the heating membership of the PHCC.
"A lot of us, like our business, are both, but there are a fair number that are just heating or just plumbing across the state. So I'd like to get that more balanced out," De Young said. "Both this and finding more workers are actually both national goals this year as well. I'd set those goals a couple years ago, but the national goals are backing me up on that, which is nice because we are then all working for the same outcome."
One of the highlights of her first year of her two-year term as president, De Young said, will be working to host the national PHCC convention in Milwaukee later this year.
"I've always been humbled by the respect that the guys show me. I was very intimidated initially to feel like I would have good input into their decision-making because I never actually carried the tools of the trade," De Young said. "So, I thought, 'What do I know?' when they started talking about those issues. But I found out that I brought value to the table just because I've worked with marketing, designed websites, paid bills and covered payroll. Many of them struggled with those kinds of things because that wasn't their forte. I immediately felt a great deal of respect and that I was giving value to the group."
Although she is more than happy with the way her life has turned out, De Young would be the first to admit that she would never have guessed her life would turn out the way it did when she was younger.
"Forty-five years ago when I was graduating from high school, if someone had asked me what I wanted to do after high school, I never would have said go into the plumbing and heating business," De Young said. "But for whatever reasons, my life turned in that direction and it has been good to me. I've never regretted the direction my life has taken. Now I just want to say thank you and let people know it is a great choice to go into this industry."