The National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) announced the appointment of Cassandra Kline as the director of certification for the International Certification Board (ICB), effective October 16, 2023. Kline brings a wealth of knowledge and commitment to this role, having served as NEMI director of construction technology. She also assisted with ANAB/ANSI (ANSI National Accreditation Board/American National Standards Institute) duties.

“We trust her dedication to excellence, leadership skills, and deep understanding of our organization make her the perfect candidate to lead our certification program into the future,” said NEMI Administrator Lisa Davis. “We are excited to see her bring the same level of dedication to her new role.” 

“What can women do in the trades” was the Google search that changed everything for Lisa Davis, who was recently hired as the administrator for the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC).

After working a series of odd jobs both in and out of the trades and experiencing pervasive discrimination, she had almost given up on the building trades as a career path. But in 2008, after Googling that question, Davis found the website for Oregon Tradeswomen, an organization that focuses on providing opportunities for women in building trades apprenticeships. She enrolled in the organization’s trades and apprenticeship career class, which eventually led her to the apprenticeship program at SMART Local 16 (Portland, Ore.).

Today, Davis would be the first to tell you what women can do in the trades: She is now the first woman to serve as administrator of NEMIC.

“I am very excited to be a part of the NEMIC fund — there are so many powerful initiatives that this brilliant team is working hard on moving forward to help bring more work to our members,” she said, also expressing her gratitude to those who came before her. “I’m looking forward to continuing to collaborate with our contractors on what efforts best serve our industry to give us the edge, and to bring public and stakeholder awareness to issues that matter the most, like energy efficiency and public safety.”

“Lisa is a fantastic choice to lead NEMIC into the future,” said David Bernett, former NEMIC administrator and current SMART international representative for U.S. Northeast Region 1. “She worked closely with our NEMIC team over the last several years, and her work ethic, integrity and honesty shine through in everything she does. Honestly, on more than one occasion I wished I had hired her instead of the ITI [International Training Institute], because she is just that good.”

Davis took an unconventional career path into the sheet metal industry. She originally attended the University of California, Davis, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology. With aspirations of becoming a doctor, she then moved to Oregon to attend the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. She also became a perfusion assistant, helping monitor the medical equipment that keeps patients’ hearts and lungs functional during surgeries.

The job was grueling. Davis worked 20-hour shifts and was on call day and night. She felt burned out after only two years and realized medicine wasn’t for her.

Davis had worked in a bowling alley as a mechanic during her undergraduate studies, so she found a similar position in Oregon. Not only was the work taxing — as the only woman on the job, she faced consistent misogynistic behavior from the mechanical staff. It was around that time that she entered that fateful Google search.

While her studies at Oregon Tradeswomen restored her faith that she could find a career in the trades, it took almost two years for her to be accepted into the Sheet Metal Institute, Local 16’s five-year apprenticeship program. It was 2008, and the country was at the height of a recession. Jobs were sparse.

Once Davis began her training at the Sheet Metal Institute, she proved to be a dedicated and skilled apprentice. Within a year of journeying out, she was recruited by her alma mater to develop and implement a service apprenticeship program. In 2016, Davis was hired as a full-time service apprenticeship program instructor at Local 16, and she began working at the ITI just two years later.

“Lisa has had the words ‘first woman’ attached to her name a lot over the past several years,” said Dan McCallum, executive director of the Funds, which comprise NEMIC, ITI and the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT). “While the distinction is important and notable, it didn’t factor into our selection process. Lisa was, by far, the most qualified candidate for the job.”

Aaron Hilger, CEO of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), concurred.

“I couldn’t agree more with Dan’s assessment,” he said. “Lisa is the most qualified person for the job, and I am very excited to work with her. Lisa’s strategic leadership at NEMIC will help SMART members and SMACNA contractors gain market share and work hours, and help guide us through the complex waters of indoor air quality and ventilation verification.”

Michael Harris, a longtime staffer at the International Training Institute (ITI), has taken the reins as its administrator. A second-generation sheet metal worker, Harris got his first taste of the industry at age 16, when he spent the summer working in a sheet metal shop.

Initially opting for college, Harris later changed course and worked in a custom fabrication shop alongside his father before joining the SMART Local 20 (Indianapolis, Ind.) apprenticeship program in 1991. During the fourth year of his apprenticeship, Harris began teaching part time at the Local 20 training center, moving to full-time teaching in 1997. By 2000, Harris took over as director of training for the statewide training trust.

In 2005, Harris joined the ITI staff as a welding assessor, and in 2009 he took on the role of program administrator, overseeing programming and instructor training and managing field staff. After the retirement of James Page in 2020, Harris assumed many of the responsibilities of ITI administrator in an acting capacity, assisting Funds Administrator Daniel McCallum in running the day-to-day operations of the organization. Effective Jan. 1, Harris officially accepted the role of ITI administrator.

 “Mike has been instrumental in the success of ITI over the years,” McCallum said. “His knowledge and experience have made my job as funds administrator far easier. He is absolutely the best person for the job.”

Harris hopes to continue to build on ITI’s success, adding new instructional offerings and developing programs for the sheet metal workers of tomorrow.

“I’m excited to take on this new role at ITI,” Harris said. “I genuinely believe that the ITI trains the best and the brightest. Our instructors are top notch, our programs are among the most advanced and dynamic in the industry. And our staff is second to none.”

By General Secretary & Treasurer Kim Thompson

Just as you balance your personal checkbook and compare income to expenses in making decisions where to spend and where to save, we at UTU International make similar decisions with your dues.

Accepting responsibility to protect the interests of our members also includes accepting responsibility to use the funds entrusted to the International so as to obtain the most value from every dues dollar received.

There is no silver bullet for managing finances. Resource utilization is regularly assessed and needed adjustments are made. Demanded action is met with a cost-effective response. This same standard is applied to funds managed for the Discipline Income Protection Program and the United Transportation Union Insurance Association (UTUIA).

During the current administration, the UTU’s General Fund, accounting for most day-to-day operations of the International, has increased from $2.1 million to nearly $2.6 million.

The balances of all other funds have improved by an even greater extent, with the total of all International funds increasing from $7.5 million to nearly $16 million — an increase of 111 percent.

The Convention Fund balance assures that necessary funds are available to finance the 11th Quadrennial Convention convening in August.

This is all in spite of reduced membership owing to the deep recession and employee layoffs, and extraordinary administrative and legal expenses.

In 2007, our Discipline Income Protection Program reserve fund suffered a $2 million loss and was left with a balance of just over $5 million. Today, our reserves are at more than $9 million, assuring sufficient funds to satisfy all outstanding liabilities and provide the protection our members expect and deserve.

The UTUIA, meanwhile, earned more than $400,000 from operations during 2010, and remains financially strong with nearly $26 million in surplus.

Union assets are invested primarily in cash accounts and short term bonds, and are largely unaffected by the stock market problems.

The UTUIA, as all insurance providers — and even the Railroad Retirement Trust Fund — has assets invested in the stock market, as well as in bonds and cash accounts. But UTUIA investments are generally conservative in nature. UTUIA investment advice is obtained through independent advisers who have no financial benefit from actual transactions, but are paid on a fee-for-service basis.

Prior to this administration assuming office, it was said that the UTU was broke and could not survive on its own. In addition to precariously low reserves, our nation fell into the worse economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. During the depths of this recession, more than 15 percent of our members were furloughed.

Disciplined finance management by this administration enabled continued growth.

Now, as the railroads recall employees and hire new workers, the resulting increased receipts will add to these reserves, assuring availability of funds for continued quality representation.