Apprentice Spotlight:  Caroline Smith, 2024 Graduate of the Sheet Metal Institute

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Meet Caroline Smith, 2024 Graduate of the Sheet Metal Institute Apprenticeship Training Program in Portland, Oregon.

What led you to choose a career in sheet metal?

I opted for a career in sheet metal after completing Oregon Tradeswomen’s Pre-Apprenticeship program, an eight-week initiative designed to introduce students to trade options in Oregon. Out of all the field trips to local trade unions, Local 16 caught my interest due to its work diversity, the potential for continuous learning throughout my career, and the opportunity to be a positive addition to the membership, especially considering the smaller percentage of female sheet metal workers.

What career path were you on before?

Following my bachelor’s degree, I held various jobs, including two years teaching high school English, working in a bakery, and a stint in media.

Why did you choose a career in the Sheet Metal Industry?

The core reasons behind my choice to pursue a career in the trades were financial stability, on-the-job training, union protection, and an improved quality of life. Specifically, I chose Sheet Metal because it was an area I knew the least about, and I saw potential for longevity in the career.

When did you start the apprenticeship and how far along are you in the program?

I started July 2019 and am currently in my fifth and final year of the apprenticeship program.

Where do you work now?

I am currently working in Central Oregon, contributing to the construction of the new Prineville Courthouse with Apollo Mechanical.

What are your career goals for the future?

Although I am thoroughly enjoying my current role in Commercial HVAC installation, I am open to leadership positions in the future. Ideally, I plan to turn out this summer, continue working at the Journey level, and eventually lead a crew as a foreperson. On a broader scale, I aspire to work in outreach and trades advocacy, contributing to ongoing changes and improvements in inclusion, efficiency, and retention within our trade.

What would you say to others to encourage them to consider a career in Sheet Metal?

For anyone interested but hesitant about pursuing a Sheet Metal career, I recommend visiting your local union training center. Meet instructors or members who can address your questions, get into the shop to experience potential tasks, and explore wage packages available. The more information you have to make an informed decision about your future, the better.

Are you having fun?

Absolutely! While every job has its frustrations, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many hilarious and good-hearted blue-collar workers. We struggle and laugh side by side, always finding someone to joke with, a problem to solve, and something to be proud of at the end of the day. The positive changes in my health, confidence, and financial well-being have had the most significant impact on my life. I couldn’t have achieved certain milestones without a career in the trades, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. That gratitude is what keeps me going.

If you share Caroline’s desire for a financially rewarding career with a positive impact on your life, apply to our apprenticeship today. Get started at

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