HVACR Alum Karin Dahlin Named Apprentice of the Year

HVACR Alum Karin Dahlin Named Apprentice of the Year

Minneapolis College Alumna Karin Dahlin is quickly becoming one of the College’s most notable graduates. A 2018 grad from the College’s Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR) Program, she is known for not wavering under pressure and having the ability to think quickly on her feet.

She graduated prepared to interpret concepts, procedures and safety practices; troubleshoot and repair equipment; communicate with customers, co-workers, and employers; and demonstrate necessary mechanical skills. This training has not only prepared her for a high paying career in HVACR, but gave her the skills and experience to compete successfully in local and national competitions.

Putting her skills to the test

While a student at Minneapolis College, Dahlin was honing her academic skills while balancing a job performing furnace inspections and tune-ups for CenterPoint Energy. She put those skills to the test as a second-year student competing in her first HVACR competition—the local SkillsUSA Championship.  Dahlin placed second in her first state competition and her competitive spirit was sparked.

The SkillsUSA Championships are career competition events showcasing the best career and technical education students in the nation. Contests begin locally and continue through the state and national levels with a philosophy to reward students for excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and to keep training relevant to employers’ needs.

After graduation, Dahlin moved on to Minneapolis St. Cloud Pipefitters Local 539 where she started a four-year apprenticeship. Her competitive spirit continued and while she was completing her apprenticeship, Dahlin competed in a variety of contests including placing first in the PHCC Educational Foundation National Apprentice Contest and three United Association Minnesota Apprentice Contests—Minnesota, District 4 (midwestern states) and International, which included the United States and Canada (six districts in total). The winner of each contest moved on to the next.

“Each award has been a confidence booster, but also deeply humbling,” said Dahlin who completed her Journeymen apprenticeship and is currently working as a service technician for Northland Mechanical Contractors. “It’s hard to believe that having come into this trade with so little mechanical knowledge, I was able to come this far. Any success I’ve found in this career, I owe to the women who came before me, and to my mentors in the trade. I was the first woman to ever win the United Association International Apprentice Contest. As I see it, I did break a glass ceiling, but someone else put up the ladder and handed me the tools.”

“The HVACR program at Minneapolis College prepares students with a combination of skilled instructors, a strong advisory committee and by having students train on a wide variety of HVACR equipment,” said John Singel, HVACR faculty. “The team works hard to ensure the instructors, coursework, and shop remain current to match the challenges the students will see in the field. These same skills supported Dahlin as she competed across the country.”

Apprentice of the Year

When union tradeswomen and labor leaders gathered for the 2022 Women Building Success Awards, a celebration of local apprentices, journey workers and advocates for women pursuing careers in the construction trades, Dahlin was among the attendees. Women Building Success is a Minnesota organization founded in 2017 to recognize and promote the achievements of women in union construction trades. The awards ceremony is among its biggest events of the year.

During the event, Dahlin was named Apprentice of the Year, an award which received an overwhelming number of nominations. “It was a huge honor to be named Apprentice of the Year,” said Dahlin who is grateful to the instructors and mentors who encouraged her curiosity and desire to learn. “I came into this career with almost no mechanical background and my instructors recognized I wanted to learn and kindly answered basic questions time and time again.”

In a recorded video played at the awards ceremony, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar congratulated the 44 women nominated for WBS awards, and she praised WBS and local construction unions for their ongoing efforts to support tradeswomen and make the unionized construction industry a more welcoming place for women to work. “When our tradeswomen succeed, our economy succeeds,” Klobuchar said. “And when our economy succeeds, America succeeds.”

“It means a lot to have Dahlin named Apprentice of the Year as she was an outstanding student and has always represented the College and the HVACR program well as she has advanced through her career,” said Singel who praised Dahlin’s great personality, ability to learn and willingness to try new challenges. “She makes a great role model for younger women in the trades, and she has created a path for other women to follow. We are proud to have her represent our program.” According to Minneapolis College HVACR instructor Greg Skudlarek, in his 34 years of teaching, Dahlin is, by far, the best student he has ever taught.

The Industry

The HVACR industry is about learning skills students will use throughout their lifetime.  It is an industry that welcomes all people from young students right out of high school to people looking to retrain or shift careers.  The industry offers a wide variety of employment options including residential, commercial and refrigeration systems.  Students can also pursue specialty careers in computer cooling, boilers, or chiller applications.  HVACR is a stable field. Every building requires some type of temperature control along with a variety of specialized applications.  

The HVACR industry learned from the COVID-19 pandemic the importance of good indoor air quality.  While most industries stopped or paused during this time, the HVACR industry remained steadfast to help ensure stable and controlled environments across industries.  

Minneapolis College’s HVACR program is prepared to meet the needs of the students by offering three awards: Generalist Certificate, Diploma, and an Associate of Applied Science.  These options allow the students to find their skill level and fulfill their training needs for the path they choose in a fast-growing and stable industry.

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