Judy Kimbel, longtime administrative assistant and “wearer of many hats” at the International Training Institute (ITI), announced her retirement, which was effective Feb. 1.
Kimbel started her career in sheet metal with the National Pension Fund in 1986. After three years, she moved to the Stabilization Agreement for the Sheet Metal Industry (SASMI) for another year and then found her home at the ITI (then known as the National Pension Fund) starting on Feb. 1, 1991, as a bookkeeper.
“It seems fitting that I should end my journey with the International Training Institute on the date it began, 30 years later,” she wrote in her official letter to ITI Executive Director Dan McCallum.
The job, and ITI, have changed in many ways over the years, and Kimbel has been present as a reliable force to keep things moving forward. She spent 13 years in bookkeeping, then became the office manager for about three years, then moved “out onto the floor,” as she put it, to function as an administrative assistant.
She began working on the instructor training program, which included contracting with hotels, catering, and transportation vendors to set up everything necessary to hold a class, along with other class logistics. She also set up trustee meetings and became part of the national contest team, and beyond her official duties, she also became a storehouse of institutional knowledge. Kimbel credited her willingness to grow and learn new things, as well as a natural curiosity, as the reasons she thrived for so long at ITI.
One of her most memorable moments was the first time she traveled to see a national apprentice contest, which was the 2007 contest held in Indianapolis. While Kimbel had been instrumental in organizing these contests for some time, she said being “in the room” to see the apprentices compete and accept their awards really had a transformative effect on her.
“I came back with a whole different attitude about my job,” she recalled. “It makes it real. When you see who you’re doing work for, it changes you, and it changed me.”
After that, she always made a point to urge her supervisors to get their administrative people out into the field whenever possible. Kimbel attended every one of the contests going forward, the last of which was held in 2012 in Las Vegas.
The most important part of her work, Kimbel said, has always been the customer service aspect. Helping people and communicating clearly has been her mission from day one.
“My way of thinking — whether I’m working with a training coordinator, a hotel, a catering company, a transportation company — is I give them the information the way I’d want it presented to me,” she said. “Always, my work ethic is to give people the most information I can.”
Naturally, finding a replacement for someone with such a long history and equally long list of skills was challenging, but ITI Program Administrator Mike Harris has high hopes for Stacy Duffy, who, due to a transition in the administrative structure of the Funds, was able to hire on as an executive assistant and begin training months before Kimbel’s departure. Duffy will take on most of Kimbel’s duties, while a few other tasks are split among other staff.
“I am very excited about this position and have to admit, also a little nervous, as Judy has given me some serious boots to fill,” Duffy explained. “She is the best teacher and has been so patient and kind. I wish she was staying just so we could be co-workers.”
“I hoped they would find someone who would appreciate the job, who’s going to appreciate the benefits and everything that goes with it,” Kimbel added. “Stacy is wonderful and will do a great job.”
Training has been a challenge during the remote working environment that was imposed with the start of the pandemic, but they made it work.
“We stopped having face-to-face instructor training back in March, and Stacy hired on in September,” Kimbel noted, stating the two have worked together to write instructions and prepare samples of delegate lists and invoices to help document the process for events that had to be skipped in 2020 and moved to 2021.
“You can never replace someone that has truly dedicated themselves to your organization and our members for 30 years,” Harris added. “With her work ethic, dedication and institutional knowledge as well as her unique personality, she is truly one of a kind.”
He credits Kimbel’s ability to “always think two steps ahead” and make people aware of potential problems while there is time to formulate solutions as one of her most valuable traits.
As for what retirement holds for her, Kimbel has so many ideas she doesn’t know where to start. She listed off a dozen things she is looking forward to, from yoga to crafts to piano lessons, family time and travel. Perhaps, she joked, it would be easier to simply print what she’s not interested in, as that would be a much shorter list: “Basically, skydiving and clowns,” she laughed.
More than 14,000 apprentices are registered at 148 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.