Members are the lifeblood of the union, and their stories educate, motivate and ignite careers — especially when those members are well represented. In the unionized sheet metal industry, it’s more important than ever that women and minorities — and those around them — see their futures in the work, encourage their peers to join and see the value a union career can make in their lives.

Highlighted below are stories of success from those who wish they had more people who looked like them in the union they call “family.”

Cecile Ascencio

Part-time instructor

Navy veteran Cecile Ascencio applied to the Local 104 apprenticeship on the advice of a friend, graduating as a journeyperson in 2021. An employee at Silicon Valley Mechanical, Cecile teaches part time at the San Jose training facility, molding the future of the industry through classes for pre-apprentices.

After two tours with the Navy, Cecile earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance from San Jose University, but quickly realized she did want to carve out a career in the financial world.

“I knew that getting into the union would have good pay, benefits and would change my life,” she said. “Being part of the sheet metal union has certainly changed and improved my family’s quality of life, which I will always be grateful for. I wish I knew about it sooner.”

A self-proclaimed lifelong learner, Cecile gets as much from her students as they get from her.

“I enjoy helping the next generation of sheet metal workers gain knowledge,” she said. “I find teaching rewarding because not only do the students learn, but I can learn from them as well.”

Cecile has only seen a few women come through her pre-apprenticeship classes and would like to see more. She said she believes more women would join if they knew about the apprenticeship program, and the union, being open to everyone. Showcasing female instructors and other leaders in the industry helps potential apprentices see themselves in the union. She would like to see the Women in Construction community grow as more women discover the same opportunities she did.

“There are many opportunities to grow and develop professionally,” she added. “I just want to hone my craft, become the best sheet metal worker that I can be, and I look forward to my development as a professional.”

Her advice for the next generation? Be prepared, have your tools and be ready and willing to learn.

Jennifer Scott

Full-time instructor

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a fourth-generation sheet metal worker who graduated from the apprenticeship in September 2022. During her fourth year, she was brought on as a part-time instructor by Local 104 to teach pre-apprentices and then as a part-time instructor teaching welding in architectural sheet metal all the while serving as an architectural foreman for Omni Sheet Metal in San Jose. In April 2023, Jennifer was hired on as a full-time instructor.

She and her husband, who is also a member of Local 104, are raising a daughter and son, who exclaimed during his kindergarten graduation, “I want to be a sheet metal worker like my mommy.”

Like her son, Jennifer grew up around not only the sheet metal industry but architectural sheet metal, a specialty she shares with her both her parents, grandfather and great-grandfather. Architectural sheet metal is the most visual specialty in the trade, because it’s the most often seen by the general public. Architectural sheet metal can be anything decorative or water deterrent such as finishing on the side of a building, a decorative stainless steel hood vent in a commercial kitchen or hand-cut and soldered details on a 100-year-old building restoration.

As a child, Jennifer watched her mother make scuppers, a metal outlet for water on the side of a building, and said, “I thought it looked fun.”

Jennifer’s husband is part-time instructor, and together they worked with Local 104 and Bay Area Industry Training Fund to make sure one parent can be at home in the evenings with their children. Anyone who is going to be successful in the industry must communicate with their local union if they need an accommodation or help in any way. It’s the best way to be successful, she said.

“I love to teach. I like to be able to help people understand,” she said. “I’m dyslexic, and I have a couple learning disabilities, so I understand and if someone doesn’t understand, I can break it down for them like a break it down in my head. I know how to twist it in a way to help them, so they don’t get lost. I like to be able to explain it in its simplest form.”

Renee Matosich

Part-time instructor

Renee M

Renee Matosich followed her grandfather, father and two uncles into the unionized sheet metal trade, graduating from the apprenticeship program and beginning her teaching career at Local 104 in 2021. The reason? She had a good childhood because of the careers her father and grandfather had, and she wanted that life for her own family.

Originally from Modesto, California, Renee chose the testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) specialty, which exercises her mathematic and problem-solving abilities on a daily basis. It’s also a specialty that requires her to keep learning — from on-the-job experiences she is more than happy to share with apprentices in her applicant and TAB/controls classes.

She currently holds the following certifications: Duct Leakage Testing Technician, Indoor Air Quality Technician, Mechanical Acceptance Test Level 2 Technician, Testing Adjusting and Balancing Bureau (TABB) Technician and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 30.

“In addition to teaching, I also work in the field full time, so by constantly learning I feel I have a lot to offer the next generation and I stay involved as the workplace evolves,” she said. “It’s rewarding to watch new members learn and apply the knowledge I share with them.”

Just as men in the sheet metal industry have encouraged their sons, grandsons and nephews to join the trade, so too should female family members be encouraged, as Renee was by her male relatives. Hard work and dedication aren’t dictated by gender roles. By the time Renee graduated from the apprenticeship, she had already secured a part-time instructor role in addition to working full time in the field.

“Women need to be aware that we can succeed in this field with hard work,” she said. “What surprised me most about the industry was how fast you can learn and earn your ranking with dedication and hard work. The highlight of my career, so far, is being able to run my own crew and provide high-quality work along with having the opportunity to spread my knowledge for future generations to come.”