SMART Local 20 (Indianapolis, Ind.) sister Tori Barth has been working in sheet metal for 10 years, with the last four spent as a union welder and fabricator. She looks forward to all the places the union sheet metal trade will take her in the future, she says – and she can’t wait to advance her skill set along the way. Learn more in her sister story.

Local 20 member Tori Barth welding.

What unique strengths do you bring to your trade?

I’m always willing/wanting to learn more, and I am determined to do my best while learning new skills.

What do you love to do when you are not at work?

Spend time with my kids and family, as much as possible.

Goals in the future — any ambitions or changes to your career, growth or education?

Starting classes to become a journeyperson and learning more in this trade as a sheet metal worker.

What surprised you about your trade?

How capable I am in a field that is still majority men.

What do you find frustrating about your job/trade?

There will always be men that don’t think you belong and don’t want you to be successful. So the hardest part is having to prove myself when I know I’m capable but others don’t think that.

How did you get into SMART?

I joined the union because my old boss left my last job, and I followed him for a better opportunity.

Tool you can’t live without?

Vise grips.

What do you think about Tradeswomen Build Nations?

I think it’s needed. Yes, places are more diverse than ever – but they can always be better. Showing women in the trades and women being successful is only going to help this cause

SMART and the SMART Women’s Committee celebrated Women In Construction Week from March 5–11, 2023, putting a special focus on the life-changing careers in unionized sheet metal that are available to women across the United States and Canada. Along with two profile videos, SMART’s Women In Construction Week 2023 programming featured a kids art contest, a photo contest and a happy hour hosted by the Women’s Committee and SMART General President Joseph Sellers — including a video by Local 17’s (Boston, Mass.) Shamaiah Turner demonstrating how to make the 2023 happy hour drink, a tribute to trailblazing SMART sister and Director of Special Projects Louise Medina.

Women In Construction Week was founded by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), a group that started with just 16 women in 1953 and now has more than 115 chapters in 47 states. Launched in 1998, the national campaign for Women In Construction Week is held the first full week of March each year to highlight women’s vital contributions to the construction industry, increase the visibility of the many women serving as role models and educate the public about the opportunities that exist for women in the industry

Those opportunities were on full display in the SMART video profiles of Local 17 (Boston) sheet metal worker Adrian Mobley and fifth-year Local 17 apprentice Kerry Sampson — the first-ever female SMART sheet metal worker in Rhode Island.

Adrian Mobley
Adrian Mobley

Mobley said her life changed when she entered the Building Pathways pre-apprenticeship program and met Shamaiah Turner. Mobley had previously worked as a nonunion nursing assistant, and she never had the financial security to move out of her parents’ house. Even worse, none of those companies provided her with health or dental benefits. That all changed, she noted, when she joined Local 17.

”I got into the union, and I stacked: saved money, saved, saved, and now I have a two-bedroom condo and I’m loving it. So I thank the union for that,” Mobley said.

“If a woman approached me right now wanting to get into sheet metal, I would tell her go for it,” she added. “If you see me doing it, you can do it. I saw another woman doing it, and I convinced myself I could do it.”

Kerry Sampson
Kerry Sampson

Sampson echoed many of Mobley’s points. Before entering the Local 17 apprenticeship, she found a consistent, family-sustaining career hard to come by. Her hair dressing job, she said, didn’t pay very well but had some benefits; as a makeup artist, she made more money but had no benefits. Now, with the strong pay and benefits afforded by her union apprenticeship, she’s able to help her daughter go to nursing school, afford her own place and provide for her loved ones.

“I definitely have better work-life balance now that I’m in the union,” Sampson explained. “I make better Adrian Mobley Kerry Sampson money, I’m more comfortable, I have better benefits, I can do what I want to do with my free time. I love fishing; the first year of my apprenticeship I was able to buy a small aluminum boat, and now I own a 20-foot center console.”

SMART’s Women In Construction Week celebrations concluded with a virtual happy hour on the evening of Friday, March 11, during which the winners of the photo and kids art contests were announced, attendees played online games and trivia, and SMART sisters and allies shared in the camaraderie of union solidarity.

“Women In Construction Week gives us the opportunity to gather with sisters across North America, celebrate the many trailblazers in our industry, and spread awareness about the opportunities in our trade” said SMART Women’s Committee Chair Vanessa Carman. “We had another successful week in 2023, and we can’t wait for next year!”

Watch SMART’s Women In Construction Week videos here.

Tradeswomen Build Nations (TWBN) is the largest conference of tradeswomen in the world, created by North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) to help women in the construction industry achieve access, opportunity and equity at work. From October 28–30, 2022, more than 3,100 tradeswomen from across North America gathered in Las Vegas to share experiences and best practices with fellow tradeswomen, learn about new programs and opportunities in the industry, and to engage with top leaders from government, industry and the 15 largest international building trades unions.

The three-day conference featured two formal plenary sessions, a banner parade on the Las Vegas strip and over a dozen workshops on a range of topics addressing unique and critical issues faced by tradeswomen in the workforce.

The plenaries included powerful keynote speeches and remarks from NABTU President Sean McGarvey, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, U.S. Labor Relations Manager Allison Ziogas, Las Vegas Raiders President Sandra Douglass Morgan, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, IUBAC International President Tim Driscoll, U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon and a host of others

Over 300 SMART sisters and allies attended the conference and participated in workshops covering a wide range of topics.

The “Women in Union Leadership” workshop was led by a panel of women in leadership positions across several unions, including Alicia Mijares from SM Local 104 (northern California). Panelists shared how they became leaders in the field, on committees and working in business managers’ offices. Each panelist outlined their journey, challenges, growth, highlights and recommendations for those in attendance.

Annet Del Rosario, a foreperson and member of SM Local 206 in San Diego, was part of a group of panelists discussing “Lean-In Circles For Women in the Trades.” Lean-in circles are comprised of small groups of women who come together to support each other and learn new skills — and help women amplify their power. The interactive workshop prompted attendees to connect with each other and learn how to advocate for themselves at work.

“…the energy in this room is unparalleled. All of these attendees are dedicated trade unionists and the lifeblood of our future. It is my privilege and honor to stand here with my sisters who are forging a path forward for our organization.” – SMART GP Joseph Sellers

“How to Be a Male Ally in the Construction Industry” was designed specifically for men attending the conference. It featured an all-male panel which discussed the crucial role male allies play in promoting gender equality at work. Attendees learned how to better advocate for tradeswomen, help improve jobsite environments and increase diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the construction industry.

Another panel discussed childcare strategies for women working in the trades. Childcare has served as a barrier to many women looking to establish a career in construction. With labor shortages present across the construction industry, attendees focused on how the unionized trades could take the lead on tackling this issue and open careers to a greater number of participants.

For the unionized share of the construction industry to thrive, everyone must have a seat at the table — women, young workers, veterans and historically marginalized communities — and that can only be accomplished through inclusion and solidarity. A session on that topic, featuring panelists from the IBEW, covered how these populations are an asset within the workforce. Workshop participants learned best practices for garnering the support of local union and national leadership, overcoming obstacles and building an environment where a culture of inclusiveness can expand.

According to SMART General President Joseph Sellers, who attended TWBN with SMART General Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Powell, “the energy in this room is unparalleled. All of these attendees are dedicated trade unionists and the lifeblood of our future.”

“It is my privilege and honor to stand here with my sisters who are forging a path forward for our organization,” he added.

More than 300 SMART sisters, allies and leaders gathered during the 2022 Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference in Las Vegas for a SMART Army service event, creating paracord bracelets for military servicemembers. The effort served as a powerful reminder that SMART’s union solidarity always extends beyond our membership.

Paracord bracelets, also known as “survival bracelets,” are made from durable paracord strands that can be repurposed to meet an enormous range of needs, including carrying gear, creating makeshift pulley lines, hanging tarp, suturing wounds and much more. That utility makes the bracelets an ideal accessory for active servicemembers. Beyond that, though, paracord bracelets serve as an ever-present morale boost — a reminder, for those deployed, of the countless Americans back home who support soldiers and veterans

The SMART Army’s bracelet-making event, which specifically benefited Soldiers’ Angels, took place following a SMART reception on Friday, October 28, with members from across North America — spanning rank-and-file union sisters, local leaders and international leadership — putting in the hard work to benefit those who serve. By the end of the night, the SMART Army had created 357 bracelets: a staggering number that illustrates our union’s commitment to honoring those who sacrifice for us.

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 latest 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 apprentice 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 herself 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 SMART Local 18 apprentice Angela Poore received the September North America’s Building Trades Unions (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.

Like many workers in 21st century America, 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.

“We would be lucky to have more apprentices, and future journeyworkers, like Angela.”

“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/journeyen 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. Congratulations, sister!

In early June, SMART Local 16 (Portland, Ore.) journey-worker Lisa Davis was named one of the winners of the June NABTU Tradeswomen Heroes Award, which “honors two apprentices and two journey-level workers in the United States and Canada that set an exemplary example both on and off the jobsite.”

“Sister Davis is leading the industry as the first female HVACR Education Specialist for SMART International Training Institute [ITI],” read the press release announcing Lisa’s win. “Sister Davis’s passion for moving the industry’s direction to increase safety, diversity, equity, and inclusion standards in the workplace is nothing short of what she has been able to accomplish to reach those goals.”

In 2005, Lisa graduated from the University of California, Davis, solely committed to one goal: becoming a surgeon. Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology, Lisa moved to Oregon to attend Oregon Health and Science University — but she soon realized a life in medicine wasn’t her calling.

Sister Davis is leading the industry as the first female HVACR Education Specialist for the International Training Institute.

The next three years found Lisa exploring what that calling might be. She worked as a barista, in an operating room and on a farm in Hawaii. After those disparate and exciting experiences, though, it was ultimately something much simpler — a job working as a mechanic in a bowling alley — that changed her life. It was there that she realized working with her hands with mechanical tools, rather than a scalpel, was her ticket to happiness.

Following that epiphany, Lisa sought out Oregon Tradeswomen and completed the organization’s training before she was accepted into the apprenticeship at Sheet Metal Workers Local 16 in Portland. There she completed a building trades apprenticeship and service program. A passionate advocate for education, recruitment, retention and diversity, Lisa worked her way up to become Local 16’s first female instructor. She also helped form a diversity committee and served on the ground floor of the local’s mentoring program, both of which continue to this day.

In 2019, Lisa furthered her role as a mentor by joining the ITI as a heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) service and testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) specialist. She also serves on SMART’s International Women’s Committee, where she helped craft resolutions and amendments leading up to the union’s 2019 national convention.

“Sister Davis continues to elevate all members by devoting her extra time to actively working with her peers to create and implement DEI and safety language within government laws, initiating mentoring programs, training and educating members, and simply ’Doing the Right Thing,’” the press release concluded. “[Her] commitment, dedication, and hard work have proven that opportunity is a viable pathway for members to reach their fullest potential. Sister Davis is a true HERO for all members of SMART.”

Samara Sampson is an apprentice at Local 285 in Toronto, Ont. who has been in the trade for five years. The SMART Women’s Committee sat down with Samara to learn more about her and the work she does. You can visit to read her story and the stories of her fellow sisters.

What unique strengths do you bring to your trade?

I am a forward thinker and good at working under pressure.

What do you love to do when you’re not at work?

When I am not at work, I love packing a day bag, some food, and my dog into my truck and driving out to a new conservation area to explore.

Goals in the future — any ambitions or changes to your career, growth or education?

I have big dreams and goals for myself with SMART, and I look forward to a very long, prosperous career wherever it might take me.

What surprised you about your trade?

How much you can do in the trade: you can design, fabricate, weld, install, test, etc.

What do you find frustrating about your job/trade?

The most frustrating part about my job has got to be a tie between running out of material and unsolicited spectators.

What’s the coolest job you’ve worked on?

I worked on a huge mansion, complete with a theater, billiard room, huge hanger garage and — best of all — the lift in the driveway that takes the vehicles down to the underground garage.

What traits do you think a good sheet metal worker has?

I think a good sheet metal worker is reliable, efficient, good at math and ready to work.

Why sheet metal?

Metal work and welding has always been an interest of mine, and after taking the welding program in college, Local 285 made me see how much opportunity and growth there is within the union.

Tool you can’t live without?

The tool I can’t live without has got to be my hands, for sure.

Best advice you got as an apprentice?

The best advice I’ve gotten as an apprentice is to “get good first, get fast second.” This is also advice I would give to new apprentices.

What are your thoughts about Tradeswomen Build Nations (TWBN)?

I think that TWBN is a great opportunity for tradeswomen to meet each other. We are often the only one in the classroom as an apprentice and the only one on the jobsite. Any opportunity to meet and network is truly awesome. Unfortunately, due to COVID I have only taken part virtually, but I can’t wait to be a part of the next TWBN in person. I will be there!

Career fairs, SMART Army, volunteering?

I am involved with a provincial tradeswomen committee, and I lead a group of tradeswomen in a Lean In Circle. Any opportunity I have to meet other tradeswomen, especially SMART women, I will take it!