From an early age, Stephanie Gomez always knew that she wanted to take after her stepfather to build things she could be proud of. But she didn’t know until she joined a pre-apprenticeship program after high school that those things would take the form of ducts in high rise buildings. But since pursuing her apprenticeship through SMART Local 28, Gomez thinks she found a perfect match.

“Sheet metal workers are so diverse and well-rounded,” Gomez said. “it’s more than just hanging runs of duct. We also have roofing. We have architectural. If you wanted to sketch, you could become a sketcher. If you want to weld, you can weld. There’s just so many different things that you can do within it that you can’t get bored.”

On the precipice of graduating, Gomez’s dedication, enthusiasm and curiosity about the craft of sheet metal work has set her apart. That dedication is being honored at Labor Press’s ceremony focused on trade apprentices June 13.

After graduating high school Gomez felt that higher education wasn’t for her. Luckily she had a “second father” in her stepdad whom she could shadow to learn carpentry, a little bit of electrical, tile work, painting and spackling.

“I just enjoyed seeing something so unfinished become a beautiful piece of art,” she said.

To get involved in the union trades, Gomez went through Nontraditional Employment for Women, a pre-apprenticeship program, where she learned basic hand tools, machinery and eventually the basics of sheet metal, which she thought was “the coolest presentation we’ve had.”

She thought that SMART Local 28 was ideal because it gave her so many challenging skills to learn that she knew she wouldn’t have to experience too much repetition. Sure enough, when the apprenticeship got started, the school component became her favorite part of the program. In that program, every six months, apprentices undertake two weeks of education.

“I took on an extra class and I look forward to taking on more night classes just ’cause I just like to learn. I like to keep on moving forward,” she said.

Those skills have paid off for her on the worksite. Gomez has ended up working at 270 Park Avenue, an ambitious, mixed-use high rise that is set to house the global headquarters for JPMorgan Chase.

“The people that you work with become your family. I was blessed to come in and have an amazing foreman, an amazing group of individuals that taught me, guided me and helped me,” she said.

Through her apprenticeship experience, Gomez has come to see the role that construction trades unions play as helping apprentices to become a master of their craft, while ensuring that the craft also has value.

“You dedicate a certain amount of time to something and you get to see the rewards from it,” Gomez said. “There’s people that let’s say go to college and study for X amount of years and get a degree and graduate and sometimes a lot of them don’t get to use it or don’t get to really reap the benefits of it because of whatever the circumstances.”

Stephanie Gomez


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