During National Apprenticeship Week — November 13–17, 2023 — the SMART Women’s Committee spotlighted apprentices from around the country.

Kacey Grierson, third-year apprentice, Local 206 (San Diego, Calif.)

“Joining the apprenticeship was life changing. It offered me a career with several different opportunities for growth.”

Alejandro Moreno, fifth-year apprentice, Local 206

“Thank you to sheet metal and my Local 206 members. Sheet metal has given me a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment and joy. I am forever grateful to my teachers, mentors, foremen and every single person that has helped me grow and learn in the industry.”

Monty Stovall, recent graduate, Local 5 (East Tennessee)

“Going through the apprenticeship school helps you realize: ‘The amount of effort and work that I put into the program is what I’m going to get out of the program.’ Completing the program makes you feel proud that you have accomplished your goal. My goal is to be able to better provide for my family.”

Mathew Hunter, second-year apprentice, Local 20 (Indianapolis, Ind.); SMART Heroes Cohort 16 (Local 9, Colorado)

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my apprenticeship thus far, and I hope that the SMART Heroes program can continue to grow to bring more service men and women into the trade.”

Connor Tiernan, first-year apprentice, Local 17 (Boston, Mass.)

Connor started his career with a nonunion contractor and notices that with the union, people care more. Connor enjoys working with his hands but is also pursuing a degree in business management at Southern New Hampshire University. He has hopes of owning a company one day. When asked what advice he would give to other apprentices, Connor said: “This is a ridiculous opportunity! Push through!”

Jason Medeiros, first-year apprentice, Local 17

Jason previously worked for a residential nonunion contractor and says that with the union, the level of expectation is higher. Jason is a proud son to Portuguese immigrant parents and loves that he is able to provide for a family of three. He has hopes of becoming a foreman one day. When asked what advice he would give to other apprentices, Jason said: “Don’t let the bad days get you down, never say never, and Barry Ryan [his instructor] is the man.”

Stephen Halstead, first-year apprentice, Local 66 (Seattle, Wash.)

“I have never felt like I had a career until I joined the sheet metal apprenticeship. It has given me a purpose, a plan and a future.”

Stacy Ironside, second-year apprentice, Local 18 (Wisconsin)

“I am in the career and the trade that I was meant to be in.”

Roselyn Soto, second-year apprentice, Local 105 (Los Angeles, Calif.)

“I just started my career, so I am focused on putting in all the effort, dedication, and hard work to journey out and master my trade.”

The SMART Women’s Committee works to recruit, retain and promote women in our trade and ensure women have support networks that empower them to reach their fullest potential. This work is especially vital as SMART continues to strengthen and grow our union, and it requires all hands on deck.

“People of organized union labor have made enormous progress in wages, working conditions, benefits, job security and human rights,” the SMART Women’s Committee website reads. “If working women are to gain equality, they must work with and through their unions.”

In 2023, following yet another successful Tradeswomen Build Nations conference in 2022, the Women’s Committee expanded its ranks by adding three SMART sisters. Meet the new committee members:

Amy Carr

SMART Women's Committee member Amy Carr

Amy is a member of SMART Local 276 in Victoria, British Columbia, specializing in HVAC and welded grease duct systems for Lewis Sheet Metal. She recently became a part-time instructor at Camosun College, teaching sheet metal to first-year students and trade sampler programs; she also promotes her craft to school district programs across Victoria.

Amy has served on many governance committees over the years. She was a founding member of the B.C. Centre for Women in the Trades, a director at-large for the B.C. Tradeswomen Society and worked with the B.C. Construction Association, creating the “Don’t Be a Tool” program. You will often hear Amy say: “If there aren’t enough seats at the table, we will build a bigger one!”

Annet Del Rosario

SMART Women's Committee member Annet Del Rosario

Annet Del Rosario was born in Orange County, California, and has spent most of her life in San Diego. She began her career in the sheet metal trade in 2002 and later attended the SMART apprenticeship program from 2004–08. Annet’s determination and hard work earned her the position of shop foreperson/supervisor for Able Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. in 2010 — a position she holds to this day.

Annet’s passion for the unionized construction industry is evident in how actively she works to promote the trades. Annet currently serves as a vice president and E-board member for SMART Local 206 (San Diego). Even beyond her local, though, Annet saw the need for additional support for tradeswomen, and in 2017, she created Building Trade Sisters (BTS): a local group supporting women across the industry. BTS meets monthly and works collectively towards advancing the presence of women in construction, along with improving work experiences for women in the trades. Annet was honored in July 2022 with the NABTU Tradeswomen Heroes award, and she continues to fight for equality for women across the industry.

Subrina Sandefur

SMART Women's Committee member Subrina Sandefur

Subrina Sandefur began her sheet metal career in 2000 for SMART Local 20 (Indianapolis, Ind.). She worked at Tarpenning Laffollette Company, where her first position was cleaning the shop. Subrina advanced her skills by learning how to run and maintain machines and equipment in her shop, including C3000 Turret, Mororun2548 Turret and Mazek Laser, and she became the leader of the cabinet and rad door department for 10 years, making herself valuable by being a person everyone could count on.

Subrina prides herself on having a solution or answer to problems, being energetic and being highly efficient at her job. In August 2022, Subrina was the first woman in Local 20 to win the SMACNA Excellence Award. Subrina’s hard work has led her to the foreperson position at her shop. She is a driven advocate for women and serves as chair of the Local 20 Women’s Committee.

In another step forward for SMART and the unionized sheet metal industry, SM Local 66 (Seattle) and SMACNA-Western Washington announced a joint initiative – the first in the industry – to make lactation pods available to new mothers, starting in April 2023. This is an important step that will help mothers in the sheet metal trade return to work without compromising convenience, privacy and comfort.

“They’ll have a seat, sink, HVAC, electricity for the breast pump and phone chargers, plus a refrigerator to keep the breast milk cold during the remaining hours of the workday,” reads a SMACNA-Western Washington press release. “The lactation pods are designed for comfort and accessibility and will keep women from the embarrassment of getting walked in on. They will also make it easier to keep breast milk fresh, reduce the difficulty of locating and getting to a private space and provide storage for their pumping gear.”

Returning to work as a new mother has historically been a very different experience for tradeswomen compared with those working in an office, for example. Many SMART sisters in the Pacific Northwest have reported that they frequently had to pump in places where privacy and peace of mind were anything but guaranteed, including port-a-potties, cars and more.

The Local 66-SMACNA-Western Washington partnership will aim to rectify those concerns: Through an exclusive partnership with a custom fabricator, the SMACNA-Western Washington press release adds, “the clean, sanitary pods will be digitally secure via an app.”

Local 66 – both leadership and the local’s Women’s Committee – collaborated with SMACNA-Western Washington, the Northwest Labor Management Organizational Trust and the Western Washington Sheet Metal JATC to raise funds for this landmark project. In addition to providing vital services to new mothers, the lactation pods will help strengthen Local 66 and SMART as our union seeks to grow across North America.

“This type of initiative demonstrates our ongoing commitment to progress; to making sure all workers are welcome on the job,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers. “This is a groundbreaking first step as we continue to organize workers across our two nations.”

March 6-11 was Women in Construction Week – an annual celebration of women in the industry and, for SMART, the sisters who strengthen our union. With two profile videos, a photo contest, a kids art contest and a happy hour at the end of the week, SMART spent Women in Construction Week 2023 highlighting the achievements of women in the unionized sheet metal industry and showcasing the life-changing careers available to women across the United States and Canada.

“Women in Construction Week is a great opportunity to get more women members connected each year and more involved with their union,” SMART Women’s Committee Chair Vanessa Carman (Local 66) told SMART News. “It was great to see new sisters and allies attend and show their support.”

Watch: SMART sisters discuss Women in Construction Week.

SMART News interviewed sisters Korri Bus of Local 16 (Portland, Ore.) and Tatjana Sebro of Local 206 (San Diego, Calif.) about their personal experiences with Women in Construction Week and the union. For Bus, Women in Construction Week plays an important role in showing tradeswomen that even if they’re the only woman on the jobsite, they’re never alone.

“It highlights all the other women who have blazed the trail for us,” she said. “Growing up in the trades, when I was a baby apprentice, I didn’t have other women that I worked around, so I didn’t really get to connect with any of them, learn from them, be mentored by any of them, understand any of the struggles that they were also dealing with. So I think it’s really neat that we all get to come together and be celebrated … knowing that there are other women in our trade kicking butt and taking names.”

Two such trailblazing women, Shamaiah Turner of Local 17 (Boston) and Leah Rambo of Local 28 (New York City), earned the spotlight for new career advancements. Turner recently transitioned from the field into union representation, becoming a business development representative for the SMART Northeast Regional Council. And in March, Rambo retired from Local 28 to become deputy director of the executive team of the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau. Both women provide a strong example for the union sheet metal workers of the future.

Providing opportunity for women in construction

For unions like SMART, part of the aim of Women in Construction Week is to promote the value of entering the union building trades. Numerous studies demonstrate that unionized women earn better pay and benefits than their nonunion counterparts. For that reason, it’s important to increase awareness of the unionized sheet metal trade and how women can get involved. Sebro emphasized that Women in Construction Week helps expand knowledge of the role women play in our union and our trade, as well as the obstacles many face in their journey.

“Sometimes people don’t really understand some of the struggles and the barriers that we go through as women in the trades, so to be able to have a whole week highlighted is definitely liberating for me,” she said.

The SMART sisters of Local 206 participated in a photoshoot with fellow trades sisters, sponsored by the IBEW Local 569 and hosted at the Ironworkers Local 229 union hall. For Sebro, that represented the type of sisterhood and solidarity that has helped her throughout her career – and that, as a new journeyperson, she hopes to pass on to the next generation.

“I want to continue to move mountains and to just keep rising and to bring people with me,” she declared.

The U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau appointed SMART Local 28’s Leah Rambo as deputy director of its executive team in early February. In response, SMART issued the following statement:

“The U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau does important work lifting up our sisters who strengthen our economy, our industry and our union – and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion across the trades. We celebrate the Bureau’s appointment of Leah Rambo from SMART Local 28 (New York City) as a deputy director on its executive team. As the director of training for Local 28 and a member of our SMART International Women’s Committee, Leah has worked tirelessly to recruit and retain an increasing number of women and ensure safe, quality work and training environments.

“Thanks to unprecedented investments in our infrastructure, megaprojects continue to come in across the country. We all have a responsibility to make sure women in our communities have access to the good, family-sustaining union jobs and the benefits our union and industries provide. We know Leah will be a dedicated advocate in the efforts to expand opportunities for women and their families.”

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 www.SMART-Women.org 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!