When Josh Buckley decided to take a chance on the SMART Heroes sheet metal training program, he didn’t realize just how much it would alter the course of his family’s future. A few months after he graduated from the SMART Heroes program, Linsey Buckley, his wife, was accepted into the Western Washington Sheet Metal apprenticeship as well.
Once her husband got into the trade, Linsey Buckley started to see its attractive qualities — the pay, benefits, ability to grow, opportunity to learn and chance to work with her hands in a non-stagnant position. But the real draw? Equal pay.
“I could finally make equal pay compared to my husband. I could make just as much,” she said. “We’re both financially stable. There is growth and opportunity.”
As an Army wife, she was fully aware every deployment or training exercise could be her husband’s last. Having a career of her own makes that reality an easier one, knowing she could take care of her family with her own two hands.
“It’s fantastic. It’s the first time in both our lives we haven’t been broke,” Josh Buckley said. “It’s sad and exciting.”
A welder in the Army, Josh Buckley didn’t realize when he stopped at the booth that day, he would find exactly what he was looking for in a second career.
“I thought the pay and benefits were too good to be true, but decided to take a chance. I love working with my hands and making things,” he said. “It was a really smooth transition for me. We treat everyone as brothers in the military, so now everything transitions over to the union.”
And now it’s something he can share with his wife.
“It’s a steady pace,” she added of her work at McKinstry, a leader in designing, constructing, operating and maintaining high-performing buildings. “You get to see the city from a vantage point no one gets to see. It’s something I never thought I’d get to do in my life. It’s a different world.”
“With both of us in the same field, we are able to relate to each other’s days,” he said. “If we ever run out of things to talk about the trade is easy for us both to talk about.”
Their careers are the topic of many family discussions, which the Buckleys hope will teach their sons life lessons.
“It shows them gender stereotypes are fading away,” Linsey Buckley said. “They’ll believe their daughters can do anything in the future. Mostly, it makes my boys want to go into the trade. They like to see mom and dad’s projects.”
The SMART Heroes program helps military members transition into civilian life in the months leading up to or just after they leave the service. In order to graduate, veterans completed a seven-week course to earn the equivalent of their first-year sheet metal apprentice training (224 hours). Upon discharge from service, these graduates may choose to enter any of the 150-plus SMART apprenticeship programs in the United States and be provided direct entry and advanced placement as a second-year sheet metal apprentice, including a high probability of obtaining second-year apprentice wages and benefits.
Launched in August 2017, the SMART Heroes Program was established to provide free sheet metal industry training to enlisted U.S. Military men and women who plan to enter the civilian life within the year, thereby assisting in a successful transition into the civilian workforce. Adjacent to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Western Washington Sheet Metal JATC seemed the ideal host for the inaugural SMART Heroes class.
For additional information on SMART Heroes, visit www.smart-heroes.org or call the International Training Institute (ITI) at 703-739-7200.
More than 14,000 apprentices are registered at over 150 training facilities across the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (formerly the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA).
ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), welding and industrial, architectural and ornamental, and service and testing, adjusting and balancing industry throughout the United States and Canada. Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, the ITI develops and produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.
For more information about ITI and its available training curriculum for members covering sheet metal trade work, visit the website or call 703-739-7200.