It is not a secret that the HVACR industry is largely a male dominated industry. However, there is one woman in particular who is making her way to the top of this boys club.
Jacinta Caden comes from an industrial/engineering background, with her family from the west of Ireland being involved in refrigeration, electrical and haulage businesses. Whilst she could have continued in her families business, she chose to explore her own path, commenting: “anything I have or haven’t accomplished is all my own doing which is empowering for me.”
She has now been officially working in the HVACR Industry since 2003 and is a qualified refrigeration engineer. At the start of her career Ms Caden was involved in the practical side of the industry, carrying out service, maintenance and installations on RAC systems. Since then she has developed through varying roles and currently works a business development associate (Europe & Asia) for Critical Project Services, a management consulting firm specialising in the development, management and control of projects and programs for clients in the data centre industry.
Ms Caden is the fourth female in 119 years to be elected to the Board of Trustees for the Institute of Refrigeration (IOR) in the UK. She is also a council member of Women’s Engineering Services (WES) and Steering Group member of the Women in Refrigeration Air Conditioning & Heat Pumps (WiRACHP), both of which have a similar primary focus despite WiRACHP being more industry specific.
In January Ms Caden was named ACR Woman of the Year at the National ACR & Heat Pump Awards 2019. In June Ms Caden received further recognition by receiving a WES Top 50 Women in Engineering Award, the theme for WES’s centenary year for this award was Current or Former Apprentices, an ideal category for her. For the last two years Ms Caden has also had the opportunity to be on the judging panel for the RAC & IOR Student of the Year Award in the UK.
Much like those competing in the SKillFRIDGE final, Ms Caden began her career as an apprentice and also participated in a National Skills Competition in Ireland during her apprenticeship. Ms Caden was put through her apprenticeship with an RAC contractor in Dublin. For the off-the-job phases of her training, she had to study in both Cork and Dublin before finally qualifying as a refrigeration engineer four years later.
With the skills crisis happening in the UK, Ms Caden’s experiences highlight the importance of apprenticeships, especially as a route into engineering. She believes it is important to fight against the stigma so often attached to choosing apprenticeships over university, especially for females. She also feels that there is more to be done across the country with influencing the minds of children, students, parents, mentors, employers, end users and the professionals in education to encourage young people into industry careers via apprenticeships.
Ms Caden commented: “Apprenticeships are a fantastic foundation into any career, we all know how important theory is but there is nothing quite like the hands on experience, learning first hand, seeing and being out in the working world particularly at a young age has major advantages. Apprenticeships are irresponsibly underestimated in general however their potential to give students the opportunity of a head start over their peers is not to be overlooked.”