Chelsey Bus recently graduated from her apprenticeship at Local 16 in Portland, Oregon. During her five years of training, she experienced much of the same adversity other women have faced in the trades. Although the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers has made great strides to recruit and retain women, they remain a minority of the membership.
Bus was asked, “Can you recall a time when someone was there for you on the job?” as part of the “I got your back” campaign.
When Bus began her apprenticeship, she said her early duties involved doing some of the more menial work, like moving materials. But she began to see a shift in her job responsibilities around the time she was assigned to work at General Sheet Metal, a woman-owned business certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council in Clackamas, Oregon. There, Bus was assigned to work on an architectural sheet metal job.
“I didn’t have a lot of experience working on the architectural side,” explained Bus. “So, I was kind of surprised when I was given the assignment.”
Nevertheless, Bus thrived there. Over the course of her apprenticeship, she worked in residential HVAC; commercial HVAC; testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB); a mechanical shop and an architectural shop.
While working on an architectural project at General Sheet Metal, her friend and project manager, Carrie Barber, passed away unexpectedly.
“During that period, immediately after he passed away, people started telling me that he had gone to bat for me. He stuck his neck out and believed in me and got me placements. I had no idea,” Bus said. “His encouragement and faith in me were really touching. He had my back; I didn’t even know it.”
Bus said Barber’s faith in her was inspiring and she plans to pay it forward, both on the job and off.
“I plan to make an effort to be that person for others,” she said. “I want everyone to experience that level of support, that same feeling that I’ve got your back.”
Apprentices receive training in AutoCAD, air balancing, refrigeration/service, welding and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) design, fabrication and installation. While they are learning in the classroom, they are gaining skills on the job site including installation of architectural sheet metal, kitchen equipment and duct for heating and air conditioning systems in residential and commercial buildings.
The goal is for apprentices to graduate with zero tuition debt and a career to last a lifetime. More than 14,000 apprentices participate in 148 training centers across the United States and Canada, learning curriculum and using the free training materials provided by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry.
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.