Attracting Young Talent
– by Lynne Brandon
Jessica Nutt explains what led her to a career in the HVAC industry.
Jessica Nutt is not easily intimidated. That is to her advantage especially since she is a rare female in the HVAC business. Nutt is the newest hire at Professional Air Systems where she is quickly making a name for herself as a skilled HVAC technician.
Leap of Faith
She is enrolled in the Forsyth Technical Community College in the Residential HVAC and Refrigeration two-year degree program. The multi-tasking, 26-year old has seamlessly juggled full-time work while in school, and expects to graduate in 2022.
Inspiration for the career came from exasperation from working in the food industry – at a university and a retail juice shop – both in management. Nutt knew it was not what she wanted to do with her life. She remembered her parents had preached the principles of “self reliance,” and “investing in yourself first.” They had also mentioned HVAC as a career choice due to their daughter’s affinity for repairing things. “I can fix things, and I like taking things apart to see how they work,” Nutt said. “I am not a girlie girl, so this field works for me – I am not one to get my nails done, etc.” It also helps that she is not afraid to climb onto a roof.
She researched careers in plumbing and electrical but settled on HVAC. “It seemed like the right choice for me,” she said. “Technicians are needed and people will always need heat and air.”
Nutt recalled her first technical course (it was a night class and then she went to a her third shift job). “Fifty-percent of the class was really young and the other half had worked in the trade,” Nutt said. “But, everyone was nice, and helped each other. Everyone was supportive.”
Her first class was Heating Technology and it was difficult. “I was overwhelmed – it was like being a new veterinarian student and being thrown into doing surgery,” Nutt said. She credits supportive classmates and teachers for helping her succeed in the program. And, she asks a lot of questions in class. Her tenacity has contributed to making the President’s List each semester with a 4.0 GPA.
Introduction to Refrigeration is still her favorite course for covering the basics of the field. “It is the foundation course for all that I have learned so far and really, brought everything together for me.” Nutt stands out as the only female in the class. Over the estimated 15 years of the program, the program has had only three other females who have enrolled in the program.
The unlikely career path took another unconventional turn that ended with the job at Professional Air Systems. Nutt was working at her previous job in food service management and the AC went out. Ironically, she had already applied for a job at Professional Air Systems after one of their service managers visited the community college to recruit potential employees.
It made sense that when faced with an air conditioning problem to call Professional Air Systems. Her inquisitive personality made an impression on senior technician Jeff Baldwin when she followed him onto the roof to discuss the repair. It was apparent that Nutt had some knowledge of the industry when she was able to identify the split system. A call was made and Nutt was quickly hired.
“Jessica is the first female HVAC we have hired,” said Baldwin. “It has gone better than we expected and she has done a great job – she asks questions when needed and has tackled everything with ease.”
There is more to learn but Nutt has stepped into her role with ease and confidence in her ability – even when using her purple tool bag. It doesn’t hurt that she is also six feet tall, and strong, both of which are an asset in an industry known for challenging work, and at times requiring long hours.
Her winning personality, and aptitude are assets along with her team spirit. “I love coming to work everyday,” Nutt said. “We work hard but we laugh a lot and try to have a good time.”
Jessica Nutt of Professional Air Systems