Trailblazing trades educator becomes NEMI’s first female administrator

Lisa Davis has been hired as administrator for the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI), the emerging markets arm of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to collaborate with our contractors on what efforts best serve our industry to give us the edge, and to bring public and stakeholder awareness to issues that matter the most, like energy efficiency and public safety,” she said.

In 2008, an internet search — “What can women do in the trades?” — led Davis to Oregon Tradeswomen, an organization that helps women find opportunities in building trades apprenticeships, which introduced her to SMART Local 16 in Portland.

Within a year of completing her five-year apprenticeship at Local 16, Davis was recruited to develop and implement the center’s service apprenticeship program. In 2016, she was hired as a full-time service apprenticeship program instructor, and two years later she was scooped up by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal industry.

Today, Davis would be the first to tell you women can do a lot in the trades, as she is the first woman to hold the position of administrator at NEMI.

“Lisa has had the words ‘first woman’ attached to her name a lot over the past several years,” said Dan McCallum, executive director of the Funds, which includes NEMI, ITI and the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT). “While that distinction is important and notable, it didn’t factor into our selection process. Lisa was, by far, the most qualified candidate for the job.”

Before embarking on a career in the trades, Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of California, Davis, then moved to Oregon to attend the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. In the meantime, she became a perfusion assistant, helping monitor the medical equipment that keeps patients’ hearts and lungs functional during surgeries. The job was grueling, and she felt burned out after two years.

Realizing medicine wasn’t for her, Davis found a position as a mechanic at a bowling alley in Oregon. Knowing she enjoyed working with her hands, and desiring a stable career with a path for advancement, it was around this time she typed in that critical Google search.

“Lisa is a fantastic choice to lead NEMI into the future,” said David Bernett, the former NEMI administrator. “She worked closely with our NEMI team over the last several years and her work ethic, integrity and honesty shine through in everything she does.”

For additional information on NEMI, visit or call 800-458-6525.

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