This is the latest in a series saluting women in the plumbing and HVAC trades, from manufacturing to turning wrenches in the field. As the trades face a shortage of skilled workers, it’s essential to attract, train and promote more women. If there is a woman you think is worthy of recognition, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though it’s not what she had in mind when she earned it, Erica Levasseur’s degree in hospitality management has come in handy working in the trades.
“It really helps to know how to relate to people and how to get them the support and answers they need,” she said. “And to keep smiling while doing it.”
As a technical consultant for Viega LLC, Levasseur led Press Into the Trades, a training program that provides supplemental aid to vocational schools offering training in plumbing and heating technologies. In addition to hosting high school and post-secondary classes at Viega’s New Hampshire Seminar Center, Levasseur and other technical consultants traveled to 30 schools throughout New England, offering instruction. Viega provided not only training, but tools and material for the schools.
When the pandemic shut down Press Into the Trades and closed the seminar centers in Colorado and New Hampshire, the business quickly pivoted to Viega Works, a sharply focused, online customer engagement program for individual companies.
Viega technical consultants turned their garages and basements into combination TV studios and workshops, complete with racks of tools and binds of fittings and pipes. Levasseur, who normally works out of the New Hampshire seminar center, converted a spare bedroom into her new live studio and began leading seven to 10 customer engagement sessions a day on topics ranging from pressing to hydronics.
Dealing with that many customers a day, some of them men who seem surprised to have a woman leading the sessions, can put her people skills to the test. In a male-dominated industry such as plumbing, Levasseur knows that some people assume she is less knowledgeable because she is female. She likes to prove them wrong.
“You have to know your stuff. When they know I’m informed they feel more comfortable and they open up more,” she said. “I drop knowledge bombs on them.”
Training is a Passion
Though not a plumber, Levasseur has a wealth of knowledge in the plumbing trades. She spent six years in sales for a large wholesale plumbing and HVAC distributor and then worked as a service coordinator for a contracting company before joining Viega.
Throughout her career, she’s seized every opportunity to gain knowledge, taking training courses and accompanying technicians on service calls.
“I took it upon myself to educate myself,” she said, adding that the more she learns about plumbing, the more she likes it.
“I like how it’s always changing; there is always something new. And I care for the people – there are a lot of characters in this business,” she said.
Her passion for teaching others is so great that she is earning a master’s degree in technical education from Ball State University.
Viega Seminar Centers
With the seminar centers reopening Aug. 2, Levasseur will continue to provide live training virtually through Viega Works while also resuming in-person customer engagement sessions at the seminar center. “I really think this is what I was meant to do and I’m lucky to be able to do it,” she said.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Viega has continued to support vocational programs through the VTEN (Viega Trades Education Network) program. Press Into the Trades has turned primarily into a way to influence through social media. @Pressintothetrades on Instagram has taken advantage of its online reach in coordination with Viega LLC’s own social media accounts by offering trade tips and tricks and clarifying myths or theories that some have about press technology. The account also promotes diversity and attractiveness of the trades. In addition to running the account, Levasseur works closely with Viega’s social media team to offer content and be one of the many recognized faces of Viega LLC.