I am a second-year apprentice with the Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 in Dayton, OH. Before becoming an apprentice, I served in the 101st Airborne unit in the U.S. Army. I was honorably discharged after being injured during a training exercise.

After leaving the Army, I decided to take advantage of my GI Bill by enrolling in the Hobart Institute of Welding in Troy, OH. After completing my certifications, I went to work for a non-union company for about two years. During this time, I found that a lot of the senior employees were unwilling to teach the new workers on the job. There seemed to be a lot of fear that if they did, they might lose their job to a younger worker.

After a couple of years on the job, a friend of the family told me about the union. I was intrigued and looked in to how to join. In 2015, I applied to the Local 24 Joint Apprenticeship Training Center, and I believe that it was the best decision I ever made.

The atmosphere on the job, and in the classroom, is all about building you up and teaching you. The union has given me a new family in my coworkers and those I train with. It has helped build my self-esteem, and given me more financial and career stability. I love my job at Reliable Electrical Mechanical Services, I get to learn something new almost daily. I don’t think I would be doing as well if I had stayed in the private industry.

As a veteran, moving into the union trades is a great option. So many people with military backgrounds can find the regimen and comradery they crave in the brotherhood of the union building trades.