Today is Veteran’s Day and Lisa Ford, Marine Corps veteran and Project Manager at Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) is introducing us to an Air Force Veteran who is so extraordinary that her Apprenticeship Coordinator, Dave Frangione, contacted H2H directly to make sure that H2H was aware of the value she is bringing to the trades.
Magan (whose given name is Victoria) Smith was medically retired from the Air Force for Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder after serving “8 years, 2 months, and 21 days” of active service. While on active duty, Magan was an Aircraft Armament Systems Specialist. In civilian terms: when a pilot locks on a target, arms a missile, fires and completes their mission, he or she needs a highly trained specialist for support. From testing and evaluating new weapons systems to inspecting, repairing and loading ordnance, these specialists make sure that when a pilot pulls the trigger, the right thing happens. Magan ended her honorable service as a Staff Sergeant on April 27, 2014. Every day, but especially today on Veteran’s Day, we thank Magan and her interviewer Lisa, for their service.
Magan transitioned into the trades utilizing the Helmets to Hardhats program to connect with Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 8. She’s currently enrolled in their pre-apprenticeship program in Tampa, FL specializing in tile and brick laying in anticipation of becoming an apprentice.
Her Apprenticeship Director says: “Magan is one of my top apprentices. She has one of the strongest drives that I have ever seen in a person. Her work surpasses that of her peers; she is the cornerstone of Local 8 Southeast’s Apprenticeship Program. One day while in class, I saw Magan tearing her project down. I approached her asking what she was doing, she replied “It wasn’t good enough.” I said, “that’s okay that’s why they call it training.” She looked at me and said, “When I was in the Air Force loading bombs, there was no tolerance for not doing the job right, why should this be any different?” Overwhelmed with her answer, I stood back looking at her and all the apprentices around her. That’s what makes her great and an asset to any employer.”
What are the challenges of being today’s tradeswoman?
I’m underestimated. But once they see what I can do, a lot of minds are changed. I’ve never been an office type of person.
I’ve always felt comfortable in a field environment, working with my hands. I’m used to working in a male-dominated field so I knew what to expect. I know that in that environment you have to prove that you can do it first. If you can show that you can carry your weight everyone will support you.
Why did you choose to join Local 8?
My father is a Field Representative for the local, so I grew up around bricklaying. He told me of all the potential opportunities available to me as a female, disabled veteran. He recommended that I consider becoming a general contractor with a focus on government contracts. It’s what I want to do. I plan to start my business as a signatory contractor to the union while still being an apprentice. My company will hire from the hall, including Journeymen who will mentor and continue to train me as an apprentice until I become a Journeyman myself.
What advice would you give a woman considering a career in the trades?
My advice would be to not be afraid to try just because you’re going to have to work with guys. Prove that you can pull your weight and prove them wrong. There’s nothing like the feeling driving by a building and you put your name on it. I did that! No one can take that away from you!