By Emell Derra Adolphus
An architecture degree gave Kandice Rogers a 30,000-foot-view of the building trades, but now she is on the ground, getting her hands dirty in the sheet metal industry and thankful for an “unexpected” new career perspective. “I wish I would have known this option was here prior to going to college,” says Rogers, who received her bachelor’s in architecture from the New York Institute of Technology. “I would have saved a lot of financial stress and headache.”
The “this option” being, a job in the skilled trades. Rogers was fresh out of college when the U.S. housing bubble collapsed, freezing the job market and her hopes of working in the building trades. Then a position as a BIM coordinator for a local HVAC contractor introduced her to the sheet metal industry. “I was approached by my best friend’s father, who was a Local 28 sheet metal worker for over 20 years. His company started a job that required them to provide a BIM coordinator,” she remembers. “I had experience from college working with 3D programs so I was hired for the position.”
An “eye-opening” opportunity, the experience helped Rogers change the course of her career. “To go from classroom conceptual design to actual fabrication and installation of mechanical and architectural systems was a learning experience beyond what any classroom could ever teach me,” she says. Wanting more, Rogers applied to join Local 28 as a sheet metal worker apprentice. In February 2017, she finished her apprenticeship to become a Local 28 journeyperson and now works as a draftsperson at Delta Sheet Metal, a large-scale sheet metal fabricator and installer in Hicksville, New York.
“My career focus was kind of a natural fit for me. Drafting allows me to combine my architectural background with the construction field to solve problems, manage projects and work effectively in a design team setting,” Rogers says. “I don’t think I ever got caught up on the idea that a woman couldn’t do well in this trade. I was coming in blind with an open mind and a determination to do my best no matter what. I couldn’t be more happy and fulfilled by this career.”
With demand for skilled labor projected to reach an all-time high in the next decade, the future of the construction industry may rest on the shoulders of women. Women who, like Rogers, are willing to try a career in the skilled trades. But determining how best to attract and retain a new generation and another gender to the trades industry is a growing topic in a national discussion.
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