Local 18 (Milwaukee, Wis.) fourth-year apprentice Nicole Severson always knew she wanted to be part of a trade. Her father was a diesel mechanic, her brother a sheet metal worker, and her uncles worked as an elevator operator and a heavy equipment operator, respectively – giving her a thorough knowledge of the trades from a young age. Now, she’s making her family and her union proud as the most recent SMART winner of the NABTU Tradeswomen Heroes award.
“As her employer has noted, Nicole is a huge asset to [her] team,” Local 18 wrote when nominating Severson for the award. “She is extremely detailed, has a great attitude, and is always willing to give a helping hand.”
Despite her family background, Severson took an uncircuitous route to the unionized sheet metal trade. She initially worked in the finance world, completing an apprenticeship program in high school and spending 15 years working in various finance positions. At that point, though, she began to feel she had achieved all she could in that sphere; she reached out to her brother and began working as a dispatcher with a contracting firm.
“This opportunity gave her great insight into plumbing, electrical and HVAC,” said the NABTU press release announcing Severson’s award. “Her work on a daily basis with the commercial HVAC service technicians made her realize the diverse skill set of a service technician was what she was looking for in a career.”
Now, four years into her new vocation, Severson has proven to be a skilled, reliable and tenacious worker.
“Nicole is always looking for ways to improve her skillset through new challenges and asking questions,” Local 18 added. “Unlike some apprentices, Nicole is never intimidated by the equipment. Her background as a dispatcher has really helped us as an organization improve communication between the field and the office.”
SMART congratulates Nicole on this well-earned recognition!
Fourth-year Local 18 apprentice Angela Poore received the September NABTU Tradeswomen Heroes award — a recognition of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin sheet metal worker’s perseverance, skill and dedication to her craft.
“She is hard-working, shows up on time and soaks things up like a sponge,” the Local 18 Milwaukee Joint Apprenticeship Committee said when nominating Angela for the award. “Angela…exemplifies a great employee.”
Angela’s journey to the unionized sheet metal industry was an unorthodox one. Born and raised on military bases, Angela and her family spent 11 years driving from state to state, including Kansas, Alaska and Texas — finding adventure on cross-country odysseys.
After settling in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Angela eventually moved out of her family home at 17 years old, working at two chiropractic offices for 15 years and starting her own cleaning business.
As is the case for many 21st-century American workers, though, an economy devoted less to working families and more to Wall Street made economic stability hard to find, and while researching other career options, Angela was introduced to sheet metal by her stepfather, a Local 18 business agent. She spent some time honing her math skills, then signed up as a pre-apprentice at 34 years old.
“It’s very intimidating being a female going into a ‘man’s world,’ but I realized that the guys I was working with were like anyone else at a job,” Angela said. “They taught me so much, they showed me the wrong and right ways of doing things.”
Having spent all four years of her apprenticeship at JM Brennan Co., Angela has been able to experience the camaraderie of working in a union shop — and she’s taken advantage of every mentorship and learning opportunity that has come her way.
“The best part, so far, is working with so many different foremen/ journeymen and learning their ways of doing things,” she noted. “It helps you find what way works best for you. I cannot wait to become a journeyperson or a foreman and see where this road takes me.”
The Local 18 Joint Apprenticeship Committee clearly feels the same way.
“Angela is always willing to take on new challenges,” the committee wrote in Angela’s nomination. “When Angela’s employer challenged the employees to differentiate themselves from others, she was the only one who approached her superintendent seeking guidance on improving her welding skills. Angela had always shown signs of success as a welder, but with this challenge took the opportunity to really focus and hone those skills.”
“We would be lucky to have more apprentices, and future journeyworkers, like Angela,” the committee concluded.
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