The International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry, recently received a grant from Stanley Black & Decker’s first “Empower Makers” Global Impact Challenge. The grant includes $50,000 in tools that will be used by the SMART Heroes program, which provides concentrated sheet metal training for active-duty U.S. military men and women and recent veterans who plan to enter a lifelong career in the sheet metal industry as a civilian. 

Initiated in 2021, the Global Impact Challenge grant program will award up to $25 million in grant funding over the next five years to nonprofits that are supporting trade workforce development initiatives in the construction and manufacturing sectors. With the first applications submitted in October 2021, 240 entrants were evaluated based on number of people served, outcomes projected, sustainable impact, depth of programs and diversity, among other considerations. The ITI was selected as one of 86 organizations that will help skill and reskill roughly 180,000 makers throughout 2022. 

“The tools used in the SMART Heroes program help shape the second careers of those transitioning from military to civilian life,” says Mike Harris, ITI administrator. “They’re more than just tools. They’re an opportunity.” 

“Stanley Black & Decker is immensely proud to support the ITI as they work to skill and reskill the next generation of trade professionals,” says Diane Cantello, Stanley Black & Decker vice president of social impact. “Currently in the U.S., there are an estimated 650,000 open construction jobs and 10 million unfilled manufacturing jobs globally. Our purpose is to support ‘Those Who Make the World,’ and being able to fund educational programs and nonprofits that are revitalizing trade careers directly connects to our core mission. Thanks to this year’s Makers Grant Recipients, together we will be one step closer to closing the trade skills gap.” 

To learn more about Stanley Black & Decker’s “Empower Makers” Global Impact Challenge, all of this year’s recipients and how nonprofits may submit for the upcoming application period, visit  


The SMART Heroes program was created by the ITI, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), two locals and their training centers in Western Washington and Colorado, and Helmets to Hardhats. The first program launched in August 2017 in Western Washington with the second location in Colorado Springs coming on board two years later. 

In order to graduate from the program, participants must complete the seven-week course, equivalent to their first-year sheet metal apprentice training (224 hours). Upon discharge from service, these graduates may choose to enter any of the 148 SMART apprenticeship programs in the United States and be provided direct entry and advanced placement as a second-year sheet metal apprentice, including a high probability of obtaining second-year apprentice wages and benefits. 

Additional information about SMART Heroes can be found at  


More than 14,000 apprentices are registered at 148 training facilities across the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation workers, and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). 

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), welding and industrial, architectural and ornamental, and service and testing, adjusting and balancing industry throughout the United States and Canada. The ITI develops and produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journey workers.  

For more information about ITI and its available training curriculum for members covering sheet metal trade work, visit or call 703-739-7200. 


Headquartered in the USA, Stanley Black & Decker (NYSE: SWK) is the world’s largest tool company operating nearly 50 manufacturing facilities across America and more than 100 worldwide. Guided by its purpose — for those who make the world — the company’s more than 60,000 diverse and high-performing employees produce innovative, award-winning power tools, hand tools, storage, digital tool solutions, lifestyle products, outdoor products, engineered fasteners and other industrial equipment to support the world’s makers, creators, tradespeople and builders. The company’s iconic brands include DEWALT, BLACK+DECKER, CRAFTSMAN, STANLEY, Cub Cadet, Hustler and Troy-Bilt. Recognized for its leadership in environmental, social and governance (ESG), Stanley Black & Decker strives to be a force for good in support of its communities, employees, customers and other stakeholders. To learn more, visit the website at