Career Spotlight: Get to Know Eric

an architectural shop foreman working for General Sheet Metal

I have been privileged to participate in creating buildings that are growing and changing the skyline of Portland forever.

Eric Bjurstrom

Sheet Metal & HVAC Industry Career: Architectural shop foreman

Hometown: Eagle Creek, Oregon

I live with: My wife Mitzi, our dog Lana and our new kitten Diesel.

Education: Sheet Metal Apprenticeship, Local 16, Portland, Oregon

Years in the industry: 30 years. I went to work in fabrication shops while I was still in high school, and spent the next 15 years working in most phases of residential and commercial construction. I joined Local 16 in 2005, and turned out as a Journeyman in 2011.

My main responsibilities are: Working with our field foremen to fabricate their materials and get them shipped to site in a timely fashion. I also work with our project managers and my direct manger in all phases of our projects to create constructible items and better prefabrication items that increase our field crews’ ease of installation.

# of promotions since I started: Three. I started out on the shop floor working in our mechanical fabrication department. I eventually moved into the welding shop as a full time fabricator/welder, and eventually became the lead for that area. From there I was moved into a project management role for our architectural team. I stepped back from that position, and spent some time finishing a field project, came back into the architectural shop and was moved into the foreman’s position.

My job is: Fulfilling, challenging, and ever-changing and growing.

My first ever job was: Shop sweeper/parts maker for a small welding shop where my dad was working as a detailer.

My favorite subject in high school was: Drafting (by hand, not CAD! Yes, I might be close to that old…)

To be good at my job you need to: Be organized, patient, focused. I enjoy the mix of coordination time I spend with the office and the time I spend on the shop floor with my team, both working and training.

My favorite part of my job is: My team. The constant change of tasks from day to day. It keeps the job fresh!

My least favorite part is: The notoriously tight timelines we have in architectural fabrication.

How I got my start in the industry: My grandfather was a machinist and owned his own shop when I was very little. I LOVED going into the shop a 5-8 years old, and was completely fascinated by it. I also have an uncle that is a welder/fabricator that I looked up to greatly. In 1999, they opened a shop together and I eventually went to work for them and was given so many opportunities to learn and make mistakes and grow as a young man. I eventually moved from the family shop in seek of greener pastures and proceeded to jump around different shops for a few years doing more and more varied things. At one of these shops I met some members of Local 16 at a job site and they encouraged me and my coworker to talk to the union. I eventually did, got signed up and was picked up by a company I then spent 8 years working for, before I took the leap and found my new home at my current company.

My advice to someone considering coming into this industry is: Do it! It can be very hard work, and it can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do in your life!

My favorite project was:The Oregon Health & Science University's Center for Health & Healing building, and the Ronald McDonald House on the south waterfront of Portland are two of my favorite buildings I have helped with in the last two years.

I have been privileged to participate in creating buildings that are growing and changing the skyline of Portland forever. 

Proudest work accomplishment: Implementing laser cut work in our facility. This wasn’t commonplace when I started here. We have been able to utilize the laser to create more and more challenging profiles to be prefabricated for our field teams, and our project managers and foremen are always thinking about how to use this machine in new ways. We outsourced work for the first few years I was here, and we have had the great fortune of adding a laser to our facility. Having this machine has encouraged so much “outside the box” thinking for our prefabrication – it is an absolute game changer!