April 30, 2024

National Skilled Trades Day Spotlight: Debra Gevers

Debra Gevers, right, poses with friend and longtime co-worker Sally Fitz at Thermo King in 1986. She worked in the electrical department at the time.

Debra Gevers, right, poses with friend and longtime co-worker Sally Fitz at Thermo King in 1986. She worked in the electrical department at the time.

Meet Debra Gevers, a 46-year employee who has contributed to Thermo King’s success through faithful service in multiple jobs at our Bloomington, Minn., plant while navigating the one constant in life: change.

She has seen our company expand and production spread to other facilities. She has seen an increase in the number of women taking roles in the facility and in the opportunities available for career growth. And she has seen evolution in her family life.

In honor of National Skilled Trades Day, we celebrate Debra and the skilled trade professionals who move our industry forward.

Longtime Thermo King employee Debra Gevers wades in water, navigating the swirls of change around her.

What attracted you to Thermo King in 1978?

Money and the chance to be independent from home.... I was 18 and a recent high school graduate. The opportunity to learn was great. At that time, all production was done here so it was a busy place. My mom worked here first – she started in 1973, and we worked together until she retired in 1998.

What jobs have you done over the years?

I’ve nearly done it all here! I started out working the night shift stuffing coils into the condensers and evaporator bins for our units; this is still done by hand today. I worked on the unit assembly line, which moved to our other facilities in 1995. I worked in the machine shop where I was responsible for setup and tooling. I also worked in sheet metal, the electrical department, painting, and the warehouse for picking and receiving. I’ve been a tool crib attendant since 2015. This involves picking tickets to keep the factory fed with parts to fill orders, which is our primary function today as a distribution center.

Longtime Thermo King employee Debra Gevers enjoys time with grandchildren.

What kept you at Thermo King for 46 years?

This has been a great place to work with good pay, insurance and security that allowed me to raise a healthy family, which today includes grandchildren – including one great-grandchild. I’ve been the sole supporter since my husband passed away in 2006. I’ve also been blessed with my work family. There was a group of us who started here at the same time and truly grew up together, becoming lifelong friends.

What do you like best about your job / career at Thermo King?

I am proud of what we do here at Thermo King. Seeing our refrigeration units on the roads or on ships and knowing we put time and effort into building them is a great feeling.

What advice would you tell other women looking to start a career in manufacturing?

Production work is hard work but it’s a good career, and the opportunities are great. Work ethic is important because the jobs can be physically demanding or require long hours on your feet. However, the reward is great with compensation that allows a good living.

What would you tell them about the opportunities at Thermo King / Trane Technologies? 

The opportunities are here! When I first started in the factory, there were far more men than women because more jobs were reserved for them. For example, women were not allowed to drive forklifts or work in maintenance. That has changed. There is equal opportunity. You just need the desire to work hard and learn new skills.

And I’ve seen it firsthand. Change is always happening, and there are always chances to learn new skills, to move into leadership roles, to change departments. It’s about work ethic and action.

Debra Gevers, far right, celebrates with co-workers at a Thermo King Christmas party in 2011.

How do you inspire inclusion?

I think it starts with having fun at what you do. Others see that and immediately feel welcomed. As Thermo King attracts more diversity to the factory, it is important to make them feel comfortable and accepted so that they can have success and make a difference here, too.

That was how (Thermo King’s first president) Joe Numero’s actions made me feel. He was still active in the company when I started here, and he would come into the factory to shake our hands. He was such a good man and an inspiration to us.    

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Keep on can do it. This is true in work and life in general!