Editor’s Note: LaborPress is proud to present the 2022 Outstanding Apprentice of the Year Awards for Long Island and New York City on Thursday, June 16, hosted by Teamsters Local 282 in Lake Success, NY. Today, we continue our ongoing series leading up to this year’s gala event introducing each of those fascinating and inspiring award-winners to the wider labor movement.
New York, NY – Meghan Frederickson’s career path to SMART Local 28 began in an unlikely place — the world-famous Fashion Institute of Technology [FIT]. The Glenwood Springs, Colorado native had moved to New York City to attend FIT and emerged with an art degree with a concentration in textiles and sculpture. As intriguing as that may have sounded at the time, Frederickson says, “I didn’t know what to do with it. What do you do with an art degree?”
The SMART Local 28 apprentice decided she could do textile development and marketing at FIT.
“I don’t really care that much about fashion, but I love making textiles,” Frederickson says. “But since we don’t really make that many textiles in America, I basically spent my whole day just emailing China and asking for samples.”
Frederickson just didn’t like sitting at a desk all day — and that served as the impetus to checking out the unionized Building Trades. Initially, she thought about becoming an electrician because, as Frederickson says, she “didn’t even know Sheet Metal existed.” In researching opportunities in the Building Trades, Frederickson learned about NEW — Non-Traditional Employment for Women. NEW’s mission is to prepare, train, and place women in careers in the skilled construction, utility and maintenance trades. Frederickson says finding NEW was “just wonderful because they let you see all the different trades.”
“I found out that in Sheet Metal, there’s lots of different options and things you can do, she says. “We do all our own drafting for the layouts of ductwork that we do, [for example]. You can also do what’s called TAB — it’s testing, adjusting and balancing — going around and making sure everything’s functioning properly and installed correctly. I just liked that there was a bunch of different options within the local — different things you could do. That’s why I decided to go with Sheet Metal.”
Being female in a male-dominated field may seem intimidating to some, but Frederickson takes it all in stride and advises other women who may be curious about careers in the Building Trades to contact NEW.
“I can’t recommend them highly enough,” she says. “I was [initially] scared because I’ve never worked in a male-dominated field. I’ve always liked textiles. It was very female-dominated. I even come from a family of mostly females. I was kind of scared to be surrounded by men. [But] just have confidence. You may not be strong enough in the beginning, but you just keep doing what you can do. Before you know it, you’re able to pick up heavy sheets of metal without even thinking about it. I say, just do it.”
Meghan Frederickson will graduate from SMART Local 28’s four-and-a-half-year Sheet Metal apprenticeship program in February.