Apprentice Profile: Brian Albo
Brian Albo always loved math, and when he graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Arizona, he thought he’d be able to build a career where he could apply his math skills. He quickly realized that wasn’t the case. Brian spent a few years working in the corporate world but didn’t find it challenging or satisfying. Then one day, he joined his father, a longtime sheet metal worker and SMART Local 359 member, at the union’s Boy Scouts of America outreach program at the hall. That was the day that changed everything.
As a child, Brian knew his dad was a sheet metal worker but wasn’t quite sure what his dad did.
“I remember growing up with my dad and we’d drive by Bank One Ballpark and the Suns arena and he’d point out that he built that,” Brian said. “You know what a plumber does, what an electrician does, but a kid doesn’t know what sheet metal is.”
At the Boy Scout event, Local 359 Training Coordinator Albert Blanco talked about the history of the union and how important skilled sheet metal workers are in the construction sector. Brian spoke with Al and was invited to check out the welding class and the testing and air balance class.
“I was hooked,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do something with my hands and still use my math skills.”
Brian said that “math is huge” when it comes to sheet metal work and he gets to apply his trigonometry, algebra and geometry mastery in his new career.
Brian is in his second year of the five-year Phoenix Sheet Metal Joint Apprenticeship & Training program and appreciates the hands-on experience. He’s currently working on the ASU multipurpose arena project on the school’s Tempe campus. He worked on the Valley Metro Light Rail maintenance facility expansion for nine months. He’s gained experience on other job sites including medical and large sports facilities. He confessed that he had to overcome a fear of heights at first and credits the union’s focus on safety and fall protection with helping him be successful. Now he can be 45 feet up in the air on a scissor lift and feel confident and comfortable so he can focus on the job.
“It’s a good fit,” he adds. “I love learning, and I love class, and I love the work.”
In addition to the valuable training and work experience, Brian appreciates what a union apprenticeship program offers. He mentions that the union guides apprentices on how to have a successful career; and there are endless resources to help members be the best that they can be. He also likes the democratic aspect of the unions.
“When I went to my first union meeting, I realized that it’s us running it,” he said. “In a few years, our generation will be in charge and it’s important for us to be active now and learn from the current leaders.”
Once Brian completes his apprenticeship and is a journeyman, he’s open to learning even more about sheet metal specialties including CAD, air testing and balancing (TAB), and welding. He also knows that the trade is evolving to use more technology in the future and plans to keep pace with these changes in the construction sector.
“The journeymen preserve the knowledge and they have neat tricks and tips they pass down from one generation to the next,” he said. “My main goal is to become a journeyman and pass that knowledge to the next generation. My goal is to keep learning, to turn out, and to pay it forward.”