After Rochelle Sadler became the first African-American woman to become a sheet metal journeyman in Oregon last year, she’s ready to pave a new path forward.

Before signing up for your apprenticeship, did you know you’d be the first African-American woman?

When I signed up for the sheet metal apprenticeship, I did not even know what sheet metal was. I actually thought I was signing up for the HVAC service tech apprenticeship and was shocked to find out it was a field within itself. I was not even thinking about the racial makeup of the field. I was completely clueless.

What first attracted you to the sheet metal industry?

To be honest, the not knowing part of the industry is what intrigued me. I knew what a carpenter was; knew what an electrician was, and I noticed that the girls going into the trades typically chose those two fields. I wanted to do something different.

Rochelle Saddler

I had reservations about working in the field just because I was putting myself out there. At the time, I had nothing to lose. What I like about the industry are the different layers involved. There is architectural sheet metal, which I did for a couple years, HVACR, and then there is the service side. All these three branches of sheet metal I have an opportunity to pursue and gain knowledge, skills and certifications that can be used in all three of the sectors.

What do you think it will take to continuing attracting a more diverse group of workers to the sheet metal industry?

The first step in attracting and recruiting a more diverse group of sheet metal workers is doing things like this. I don’t think (many) people really know the sheet metal industry exists. At all.

We have to go to where the diverse people are and show them. They will never come to us if they don’t know.

Rochelle Saddler