Ted Kuczynski’s life set out on its course from the moment he joined Sheet Metal Workers Local 18’s apprenticeship program in 1971. He began teaching part time soon after his apprenticeship graduation in 1976. On the job, he took an interest in industrial ventilation and enjoyed his time at Butters-Fetting, a mechanical contractor in Milwaukee, working “on anything the office sent down,” he said.
In 1985, he took the job as Local 18’s training coordinator, a position he held until he was elected business manager of the local in 1990. In 1999, he was chosen as the International Training Institute (ITI) administrator.
“By the time I got to Washington [D.C.], I’d been through it all,” he said. “I had an amazing career.”
Today, he splits his time between Wisconsin and Southwest Florida, and when he’s not spending time with his grandkids and family, he enjoys riding his bike and a game of golf.
Q: What is your fondest memory of your time as administrator?
A: It was having the opportunity to meet and work with members from the entire SMWIA [the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, now SMART] on training issues.
Q: What was the largest hurdle you had to face as administrator, and what is the largest step the ITI has taken since that time?
A: Probably the hardest hurdle was introducing change. Change is always hard to accept but a critical part of growth.
Q: Since you left the position, how has the ITI progressed the most?
A: Since my retirement, the ITI has developed training for markets that didn’t even exist, thereby keeping our members in the forefront of our industry.
Q: What is your vision for the future of the unionized sheet metal industry?
A: My vision for the future of the unionized sheet metal industry is continued growth. In retirement, conversation tends to go to what did you do? When you mention the word “union,” people usually ask, “how is it doing?” My answer is always “great and growing.”
Q: What is a good piece of advice for those who would like their careers in the industry to include leadership positions?
A: My advice for those seeking leadership positions in the union is to talk to your fellow members and listen to what is important to them and work to make your local better. You never know when an opportunity to lead will come.
For more information on the ITI, or to read more Q&As with former administrators, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org.