Even coming from a family of three previous generations of sign makers didn’t prepare Kathryn Going for what she saw when she took a summer job working in her family’s all-union sign manufacturing shop. She hadn’t imagined that the level of detail and craft we see on signage everyday was painstakingly created by hand. It didn’t take long for her to decide that was what she wanted to do.

“There were people making all of this work. The talent was insane, you know?” Going told LaborPress. “Seeing it go from a four-by-10 piece of metal into an amazing piece of art. It was super fascinating to me.”

Flash forward five years, Going is on the verge of graduating from the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Local 137 apprentice program to become a journeyman. Her passion, quick learning and sharp eye for detail has set her apart and is being honored at LaborPress’s ceremony focused on trade apprentices.

Going said that she initially took a job at the family shop in between years of college, thinking that she was on the path to being a marine biologist. Once she got a peek behind the curtain of sign fabrication and installation, she loved it so much she decided to dedicate her studies to the trade.

“I just bit the bullet and I was like, yeah, I’ll do it for the next five years,” Going said.

Unlike other SMART unions, Local 137 focuses specifically on signage with 10 classes within the five year span. Graduates come out of it knowing how to fabricate signage, how to properly rig it up and install it, how to weld in the shop and in the field and operate a crane.

“It’s never the same thing,” Going said. “Some days you’re on the road, some days you’re in the shop, some days you’re building a giant sign. Some days you are building a letter set.”

She spent a full year and half of her apprenticeship working on the new LaGuardia Airport terminal. Her on-the-job training involved doing all the “widget” signage for Delta. “We’re heavy at the airport, which is great because there’s nonstop work there,” she said.

But Going wasn’t just doing installation. She was heavily involved in manufacturing too. She just finished the fabrication of a sign for Broadway’s Majestic Theater, the iconic showhouse that housed “Phantom of the Opera,” the longest-running production in Broadway history, until last year.

“You see it go from nothing — you create it in the shop, you make it, and then you go out in the field and you put it up and you could stand back and reflect and see how all your hard work has paid off,” Going said.

One of Long Island’s first sign manufacturers, her family’s Going Sign Company performs work from manufacturing to servicing, throughout the tri-state area. Going’s fabrications go from the super simple pan sign to the intricate channel letter set, which involves hand-bending each letter.

Her union experience has brought her close with her teachers and co-workers, and made her feel lucky to get a chance to do something that she loves.

“Everything that I’ve learned on a Saturday in class, I’ve applied right away on that Monday. Each class has just taught me so much more and just has made me such a better worker,” she said.

Her advice to other apprentices is to not be afraid to jump in. “I went from zero to — not a hundred — but further than where I started. And it’s all thanks to my union and my coworkers.”

Kathryn Going


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