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.