When Ruby Arias had some trouble passing the apprenticeship exam at Sheet Metal Workers Local 88’s apprentice training facility in Las Vegas, she knew she’d need some help brushing up on her math skills. So, she asked her older sister, Crystal, to help her study.  

Fast-forward a few years and Ruby Arias, 26, will graduate from the apprenticeship this June while Crystal Arias, 27, is in her second year of apprenticeship — both are first-generation Americans as well as first-generation sheet metal workers, and have developed a love for the craft as they developed their skills.  

Ruby Arias had been working as a cook, and a friend suggested that if she could handle the extreme heat and pressure of the kitchen, she might be a good fit for sheet metal work. The salary and benefits of union membership sounded appealing, so she took the apprenticeship exam — but it took a few tries. 

“I was younger, I liked to party, so I wasn’t taking it seriously at first,” she admitted. “But as I went, I got more interested, and I asked Crystal to help me study, and on the third time I got in.” 

As Crystal Arias helped her sister study, the work intrigued her. And she already knew she could do the math.  

“We’re opposites. She’s an extrovert; I’m an introvert. I was into school and math,” Crystal Arias said. “But we both can do this, we both fit in here.”  

The sisters graduated from Eldorado High School in 2013 and 2014, then went on to the College of Southern Nevada, with Crystal Arias earning her associate degree and planning to enter a dental hygienist program. Those plans changed as she heard about the apprenticeship from her sister.     

“They are 180 degrees totally opposite in personality,” said Adam Szumilo, Local 88’s second-year core instructor and foreman training instructor. “Ruby is a firecracker, she is in it, quick-witted, and out to prove she is going to be a good sheet metal worker. Crystal is quiet as a church mouse but such an astute student, always here, always absorbing — she won student of the month last fall. I think both of them will make great foremen.”  

As a fourth-year apprentice, Ruby Arias is now working in the field with S3H Inc. at Fontainebleau while Crystal Arias has been working at Harrah’s since her pre-apprenticeship days. They’ve both taken an interest in computer-aided design (CAD), but at the same time, Ruby Arias doesn’t mind heights and takes pride in the architectural work she’s done on iconic buildings on the Las Vegas Strip. 

“I was at the [San Francisco] 49ers game at Allegiant Stadium, and as I walked through there, I saw what I’d put up and it’s there forever!” she said. “And I was hanging panels at the MSG Sphere while I was pregnant with my second kid.” 

Sheet Metal Apprenticeship

With two young children, now ages 3 and 1, Ruby Arias knows she’ll always be able to tell them what part of the skyline she helped create while she carried them. And the insurance coverage provided by the union also put her mind at ease when it came to the financial aspect of giving birth.     

Crystal Arias’ talent for helping people got her into her apprenticeship, and she foresees a time when apprenticeship instruction may be in her future. She is also curious about learning the service side of the industry. 

“I feel like I could help people understand things, especially with the math,” she said.  

The sisters aren’t alone on their job sites, as there are many women there doing other kinds of trade work, they said. Being a woman may just be their superpower. 

“Once I got razzed about my nails,” said Ruby Arias, referring to her long, colorful manicure. “The supervisor was like, ‘Hey, maybe you guys all need to get your nails done like that so you can work as fast as her.’” 

By the time Crystal Arias is set to graduate, their 16-year-old brother will be old enough to apply to the apprenticeship. They have a feeling he might follow his big sisters into the trade.  

Sheet Metal Workers Local 88’s training center, located at 2540 Marco St., is one of 150 similar facilities throughout the United States and Canada. It’s four-year program trains apprentices in AutoCAD, air balancing, refrigeration/service, welding and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) design fabrication and installation. On the job site, through partnerships with local contractors, apprentices gain skills in the installation of architectural sheet metal, kitchen equipment and duct for heating and air conditioning systems in commercial and residential buildings. 

Upon completion of the program, apprentices can graduate with an associate degree, a career and zero college debt. For additional information on Local 88, visit 88training.org or call 702-632-3014.