Meet Rhiannon Homberger

Rhiannon Homberger, LU 1503
Rhiannon Homberger blazed through her four-year apprenticeship in only two. She feels grateful for the opportunities being a Union Carpenter have provided her, giving her a chance to set her own schedule, goals, and success.

How did you get into the industry?
Growing up, my dad had been a union plumber, so I was aware of the benefits of the union. After high school, I started out as a dialysis nursing tech, but the job proved to be emotionally and physically draining. I began to look into more sustainable alternatives. When talking with my husband, he mentioned the Oregon Tradeswomen program, which got me interested in looking into the trades.

After signing on as an apprentice at PNCI, I took a lot of night classes that corresponded with my apprenticeship classes. I really enjoyed a lot of my rigging, roof framing, and leveling and layout classes. I also picked up a lot of overtime where I could, and finished as a journeyman in May 2018–two years after I started the apprenticeship.

Do you have any favorite projects from over the years?
I would say the Block 20 Highrise–my first job where I had the chance to fly tables. Flying tables is a process where forms or ‘tables’ are moved by crane to support the next floor where concrete is to be poured. After the concrete has hardened, the form is moved out from under the floor, pushed out by 6 to 8 people into the open air, and then flown and up for the next pour.

I also had the chance to work at the Boeing in Gresham–where I learned to hone my precision. Normally you have an eight of an inch in tolerance with concrete, but with this, you couldn’t be outside of a sixteenth of an inch. The level of accuracy was really awesome because it pushed me to improve myself in ways that I feel has made me a better carpenter. 

How has being a part of a union made a difference in your life?
Better money is a huge factor. There was also a level of freedom I hadn’t experienced before. When I was a tech, I didn’t really have a say in my schedule. I’m still Monday through Friday, but if the job is done, I get to take time off. It’s become easier to plan and move things in my schedule to make it work for me.

Has union membership impacted your life in ways you did not expect?
Due to my father being a union plumber, I was aware of union dues and the part they play. I got to see how a similar system had worked for my dad as he got older. It’s pretty much lived up my expectations–especially in an economy that has lost much of the predictability after 2008.

Have you had mentors in your career? Have you been a mentor?
I’ve worked under some great foreman who have been great about passing their knowledge down. If you’re willing to stop and listen to what the people around you are willing to teach, things can go really smoothly.

Thanks to Jason Askim and Ian Harris–Both of them have been great.

Funny enough, not long after I joined the union, my husband, Jeffery Smith joined the apprenticeship. Now a fifth period apprentice, it’s been great being able to pass on what I’ve learned. He’s very receptive to advice and has no problem asking when he needs clarification.

Do you have advice for those starting out in their career?
I see a lot of hardheaded-ness from both sides.

A lot of apprentices come through and think everyone’s out to get them–like when they have you do menial tasks and small jobs. Try to remember they aren’t picking on you–everyone ends up cleaning at some point. If newbies can keep that in mind and realize they’re given this work to prove they can listen, it can go a long way.

But I also remember being on the receiving side of things. It’s good to know things are changing in the industry. Some things that were common practice back in the day are beginning to be phased out–like having to look for a ‘board stretcher.’ People have realized it’s a waste of time and it breaks the trust of the apprentice when they’re sent on a wild goose chase. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m glad to see there’s an effort to phase out that behavior.

Did You Know?

PNWRCC offers scholarships for your kids.

The Northwest Carpenters’ Union values education, and offers both our members and their families access to the high quality college education that working members of the Northwest’s middle class deserve. Apply Now

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