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Six Apprentices Demonstrate What It Means to Be a Construction Champion 

Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) 30th annual National Craft Championships (NCC), held March 1-2 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., raises the profile of careers in construction and highlights the $1.1 billion that ABC member companies spend annually on workforce development. Each year, the competition draws some of the nation’s most talented craft professionals and highlights the important role that skilled craft training plays in the construction industry.

This year’s field featured nearly 170 trainees from 28 states competing for top honor in 13 competitions:
  • Carpentry: Residential-Commercial
  • Electrical: Commercial-Industrial
  • Electrical: Residential-Commercial
  • Fire Sprinkler
  • HVAC
  • Instrumentation Fitting
  • Insulation
  • Millwright/Industrial Maintenance Mechani
  • Pipefitting
  • Plumbing
  • Sheet Metal
  • Welding-Pipe
  • Welding-Structural
Competitors first took an intense, two-hour written exam and then competed in a daylong hands-on practical performance where they demonstrated high-level craftsmanship and safety best practices. Gold medal winners took home $750, silver medal winners earned $500 and bronze medal winners received $350. 

In the pages ahead, Construction Executive profiles six individuals who found their way into construction—some through the encouragement of their friends or family, others through luck and happenstance—and all through the determination to work hard to succeed in one of America’s most in-demand careers. Additionally, Construction Executive gets the employers’ and trainers’ perspective on the value this big event brings to the industry as a whole. 

Vincent Como
Pinellas Park, Fla.
Fire Sprinkler – Gold Medalist 

“I got my start in construction when I was 16 years old working summers as a plumber’s helper. After graduation, I continued as a plumber for about three years until I began working on a golf course maintenance shed installing compressed air lines using galvanized schedule 40 steel pipe. A close friend of mine worked for a small fire protection company. Once he told me that’s what he does all day, I was sold. 

“When he recruited me, he told me to be careful because once cutting oil gets into your veins, it will never come out.’ I joined the Marine Corps and performed airframe/hydraulic maintenance and repairs on attack and escort helicopters, and all I wanted to do when my enlistment was up was hang sprinkler pipe.

“Preparing for the NCC helped me in my day-to-day job performance by refreshing my memory on installation procedures that I do not do every day, or at all for that matter. Since beginning my apprenticeship, I have moved into the design field of our industry, so I have been fairly rusty as far as installation of pipe is concerned.

“I enjoy the fact that the fire protection industry is for life safety. There is nothing more important. Out of all the sprinkler systems that I have installed, serviced or designed, if one family or firefighter escapes that fire unscathed, then my job is done, because minutes matter when a building is on fire.”

Employer: Wayne Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc.  
Sponsor: ABC Florida Gulf Coast Chapter

“It is important for our chapter to support the NCC because it continues to highlight all the training programs around the country and the effort they are putting forth to benefit the construction industry,” says Laura Newton, education administrator for the ABC Florida Gulf Coast Chapter. “We continue to send competitors every year not only to celebrate their accomplishments in our apprenticeship training program, but also to celebrate the hard work our craft instructors and ABC staff put into these apprentices.

“The NCC benefits our chapter because it provides us with another opportunity to celebrate our successes and highlight the efforts we are putting into closing the gap on the workforce shortage.”

According to Newton, the most important trait an apprentice coming into the industry can possess to make them a good fit for construction is a willingness to learn a trade. “It is becoming more apparent that there are other avenues of success than traditional post-secondary education, and apprenticeship and craft training programs are becoming more appealing.”

Adds Robert Gant, manager of service inspections and alarms for Wayne Automatic Fire Sprinklers, “Vincent is a great craft worker because of his dedication to the fire sprinkler industry. He is a very focused individual and always strives for excellence. We are very proud of Vinnie and are fortunate to have him on the Wayne Automatic team.”

Jonathan Christenberry
Lafayette, Ind.
Electrical: Commercial-Industrial – Gold Medalist 

“Going into the competition this year, I had to get the entire thing into perspective. We all know how hard it is to win gold in any of the competitions, so shooting to get two in a row really made the odds look stacked against me. From the moment I found out that I could compete again, since the electrical field is actually considered two separate competitions, an attempt to win it back to back is all that I’ve strived for and thought about. I was told about the NCC from other apprentices from the day I was hired by Gaylor, and all I could think about was going wherever the competition was held, representing my company to the fullest of my abilities and trying to have fun while doing it.

“To me, as far as difficulty, the residential and industrial electrical competitions are pretty even between the two fields. I think that the residential-commercial competition has everything to do with speed and accuracy. For the commercial-industrial competition, it is based on a skillset that some people may have never had to do—cutting, threading, bending rigid conduit, and knowing how to read ladder diagrams and test equipment by reading resistance with your meter.
“This event gives me pride in what I do day to day. I look to every task that I am given and think ‘my name is on this. It needs to be perfect.’ Just think of every task you do throughout the day and then imagine that judge is going to come and inspect every bit of your work; it will definitely keep your work topnotch. 

“As far as the NCC helping my career, if I were to build a résumé right now, who wouldn’t be thrilled to be able to put two-time national craft champion on it and have it mean what it does? I am very thankful for all of the people who have helped shape me so far in the short time that I have been an electrician, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Employer and Sponsor:
Gaylor Electric, Inc.

“It isimportant for us to support the NCC because it provides a platform for so many to show their hard work and skill set in front of a group of their peers,” says Bryan Feller, general superintendent at Gaylor Electric, Inc. “We send our competitors each year not for the betterment of the company, but for the betterment of the apprentice. This competition provides apprentices with an experience that they will most likely not get anyplace else. It brings awareness and creates excitement about not only our company, but also the industry as a whole. The new wave of apprentices coming has high critical thinking abilities and problem-solving skills.”

To Feller, what stands out most about Christenberry as a craftworker is his “dedication to excellence and the desire to improve not only himself, but also those around him every day.”

Cameron Campbell
Thibodaux, La.
Millwright – Competitor

“Competing in the NCC will stick with me in the years to come. Not only winning first place in the local state competition, but also competing at the national level was an honor, and that alone will always stand out as far as my work ethic and career.

“Preparing for the millwright competition opened up my thought process more on a day-to-day basis. The different job tasks I was given leading up to the competition made me think about things from different aspects and more in depth, putting myself and my mind in a more focused position.

“Every day is a new day being a millwright. You never know what to expect going into work. I run across many different jobs that require troubleshooting, even some of the more common pumps we work on. The majority of the time, issues come from the process side and not the mechanical. The process of elimination is always a good approach when it comes to finding an issue, whether it’s bearing failures, blown seals or misalignment. Those are just a few of the many reasons that troubleshooting plays a huge part in being a millwright. If you figure out the reason it failed, you will always remember what to do to prevent it from recurring.” 

Employer: Turner Industries Group, LLC
Sponsor: ABC Pelican Chapter

“Cameron’s willingness to continue to grow and gain knowledge throughout his career, even after he graduates this semester, is what makes him such a great craftworker,” says Kelly Carpenter, director of training for the ABC Pelican Chapter. “The NCC is an opportunity for our best trainees to compete against their peers from across the nation. It gives our chapter and member contractors an opportunity to present our best trainees who we are extremely proud of. It is also an opportunity for us to meet with and learn from other chapters and contractors from across the country.

“The new generation of trainees wants to incorporate technology more into their daily work and during training.

“They all want to come to this industry because they are aware of the opportunities that are available to them. They know the construction industry is a viable career that can sustain them and provide for their families.”

Bryan Eddings
Charleston, S.C. 
Electrical: Residential-Commercial – Silver Medalist

“Preparing for this competition helped me in my day-to-day performance by helping me refocus on the way I prioritize the order in which the tasks should be completed. I think this competition will help me as I continue my career by being a reminder that I can accomplish great things through hard work and always striving to maintain high standards.

“I had worked in the construction industry for a brief time before becoming a firefighter, and decided to return to the industry as I enjoyed all the different projects and being able to see them from start to finish. A career in construction also allows me to be able to spend more time with family.”

Employer: Gatch Electrical Contractors Inc.
Sponsor: Charleston Electrical Contractors Association

“Bryan is an energetic, industrious and conscientious individual who has proven himself time after time to be a top performer by paying attention to details,” says Butch Clift, program coordinator for the Charleston Electrical Contractors Association, an affiliate of the ABC of the Carolinas Chapter. “His professional knowledge, self-motivation and tireless efforts in his daily work do not go unnoticed by others. He is completely self-reliant. He pre-plans his work, reviews the project plans and specifications in the early stages of the job, and communicates any concerns to avoid discrepancies before they create monetary or time-delaying impacts to the project. Bryan is also committed to a safety culture and delivering a quality product. He is a model employee, displaying a positive can-do attitude that has a positive effect on those around him.

“The NCC acknowledges and recognizes the important value of our young employees and considers them the future of our industry. It also makes the industry more attractive for high school students and future enrollees into the apprenticeship program.” 

According to Clift, apprentices coming into the industry are “hardworking, have a willingness to learn and a positive attitude, and understand what the future can bring for someone who is committed to devoting the time for training, knowing that it will be the groundwork for their future in the industry. They are eager to learn and are looking for a career and a future in the industry, not just a job.”

Joel Dutton 
Cedar Hill, Texas 
Pipefitting – Gold Medalist 

“Preparing for the competition helped me slow down and focus on the hows and whys. It can become very easy to just come to work and focus on completing a task, but in my time studying, I learned things that gave me a greater appreciation for the systems that we at TDIndustries design, install and service. I learned how to view each job in the micro and macro, which gives so much more purpose to what we do day in and day out. 

“I think the competition was a great mountaintop moment that I will always be able to look back on to be reminded of what hard work can accomplish. Knowing I was able to go out there and not only compete with the best, but win, is an amazing, yet humbling, achievement. Moving forward, this accomplishment will now become one of the many things that fuel my pursuit of excellence. I believe in doing everything with excellence, and if I continue my career with that mindset, then the sky is the limit.

“For me, what sets construction apart is how open the market is and how much education is waiting on those who are willing to give it a shot. TDIndustries is a great example of a company that is willing to go above and beyond in taking someone who is green to a trade and giving them the skills necessary to one day run jobs and even run major divisions of the company if they are willing to put in the time and effort. Pipefitting and welding allow me to be artistic because I have to be able to see what no one else may be able to and create it. Coming from an artistic background, I have learned how to visualize, design and create. This has helped me excel in these trades because I have an eye for details that many people may miss.”

Employer: TDIndustries 
Sponsor: Construction Education Foundation of North Texas

“Joel’s positive outlook on everything he encounters, plus his desire to learn and teach those around him, makes him an all-star on any team in which he is placed,” says Doug Edrington, project manager for TDIndustries.

“The ABC member companies in our North Texas market value the NCC competition as a benchmark for our craft professionals,” says Jane Hanna, president/executive director for the Construction Education Foundation (CEF) of North Texas, an affiliate of the ABC TEXO Chapter. “They successfully compete in our market to be able to take their skills and knowledge to the national stage to compete against the best craft professionals throughout America. We continue to send competitors every year because it edifies the value of our industry’s craft professionals—their skill, their knowledge and the value of their trade to our industry. It is the Super Bowl for our craft professionals. We want our best on this field of competition.

Adds CEF Special Events/Facilities Manager Lori Purviance: “The NCC is a great confidence and morale booster for not only those who compete, but also for the organizations the competitors represent. The thought that there is a national medalist within a crew motivates and focuses those around them. It helps them realize that what they accomplish and create day in and day out is important and worthwhile.”

Rolf Wachter
Jamul, Calif.
Plumbing – Bronze Medalist

“Receiving a medal in the competition is obviously a great addition to my résumé, but more importantly it showed my company that I am an asset to them. It allowed my company to see that I am someone who has the capability to handle pressure and adversity along with the ability to work through it. Hopefully that will provide me with a step in the right direction to advance myself within Interpipe Contracting, Inc.

“Preparing for the competition allowed me to see that preparation is key to any task. Knowing what I wanted to accomplish and having practiced the methods allowed my work to be installed without second guessing my decisions. All the prep work allowed me to remain calm and focus on the task at hand, which is key to everyday work. The less you can scramble throughout the day and stay on task, the more productive you become.

“My first year with Interpipe Contracting was spent working as a pipe tradesman doing underground utilities. All the work was outside in ditches and your paycheck depended on the weather. I really found that I wasn’t challenged doing that work, so I pursued becoming an apprentice. Once I started at the ABC San Diego Chapter, I found plumbing was a constant challenge with many more aspects than site utilities. There hasn’t been a day since starting my apprenticeship that I haven’t been able to learn, whether it’s new installation methods or new code aspects that come up in my day-to-day activities. I feel that you have the ability to always learn something new in plumbing and that really attracted me to the trade. I also like the fact that the world is always going to have a demand for plumbers, so I feel secure in learning a trade where the work is constantly needed.”

Employer: Interpipe Contracting Inc. 
Sponsor: ABC San Diego Chapter

“Rolf has shown great discipline and dedication toward completing the ABC San Diego Training Trust Plumbing program,” says Tracey Barrett, director of education for the ABC San Diego Chapter. “He completed the program at the top of his class, with all As, and received outstanding evaluations from his contractor throughout his program. In addition to his studies and his full-time job for Interpipe Contracting, Rolf took on the challenge of studying and training for the NCC to put his skills to the test and better himself. This is the kind of employee who can be valued anywhere. You can teach skills, but you cannot teach attitude and work ethic.

“This event validates our career training process when our apprentices bring home medals year after year against the top competition in their craft. ABC is committed to developing a world-class construction workforce, and we are thrilled to provide the best craft trainees and apprentices an opportunity to showcase their abilities.

“NCC competitors develop a lifelong competitive mindset. Construction isn’t an ‘in and out’ job. This is a career field. You need to continue to work on your skills to build your career. A competitive spirit is something you need to develop. If you let up at all, there is someone looking to take your job or your business. This is true in every competitive industry. People who are constantly looking to improve their skills will always survive and thrive. The hardware in the form of the medals and trophies is nice, but the real payoff is in the contribution to long-term career and business success.” 

Maggie Murphy is digital editor of Construction Executive. For more information, email murphy@abc.org, visit constructionexec.com or follow @ConstructionMag.

The 2018 National Craft Championships (NCC) will be held the week of March 18-22, 2018, in Long Beach, Calif., in conjunction with ABC’s 2018 Convention. 

Register a competitor. Participation in the NCC is not limited to ABC chapter-sponsored training programs. ABC chapters and members must complete an intent-to-compete form specifying the number of competitors per craft who are planning to compete by Dec. 1, 2017. The registration deadline is Jan. 12, 2018. The cost per competitor is $1,000. 

Volunteer as a judge. Judges must have recognized experience and expertise in their craft. They must be onsite the day of the hands-on performance test and available to attend an orientation session.

Become an event sponsor. NCC sponsors interested in donating a combination of cash and materials or tools for the hands-on performance tests must commit to providing the ABC-requested quantities to ensure each competitor in a craft works with the same materials/tools. Sponsor benefits may include logo placement, advertisements and exhibit space.

Spread the word. One of the easiest ways to support the NCC is by sharing news and information about the event with colleagues, employees, project partners, local schools, social media networks and other media outlets. 

For more information, visitnationalcraftchampionships.org, email nationalcraftchampionships@abc.org, like facebook.com/ABCNational or follow @ABCNational.


ABC congratulated the winners of its 2017 National Craft Championships during the March 3 Careers in Constructions awards ceremony held during the association’s Workforce Week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Carpentry: Residential-Commercial
Gold & Safety: Zachariah Rhoads
Benchmark Construction Company, Inc./ABC Keystone Chapter Apprenticeship Training Trust

Silver: Justin Cramer
Benchmark Construction Company, Inc./ABC Keystone Chapter Apprenticeship Training Trust

Bronze: Jeff Pursel
RL Turner Corp./ABC Indiana/Kentucky Chapter 

Electrical: Commercial-Industrial
Gold: Jonathan Christenberry
Gaylor Electric, Inc.

Silver: Paul Yankauskas
Gaylor Electric, Inc.

Bronze: Matthew Swem
Feyen Zylstra/ABC Western Michigan Chapter

Safety: Richard Stockwell
TIC – The Industrial Company

Electrical: Residential-Commercial

Gold: Joseph Smith
Pritt Electric, Inc./ABC Indiana/Kentucky Chapter

Silver: Bryan Eddings
Gatch Electrical Contractors, Inc./Charleston Electrical Contractors Association

Bronze: Jeremy Shirley
Starr Electric Company, Inc.

Safety: Jorge Diaz
Gaylor Electric, Inc.

Fire Sprinkler
Gold: Vincent Como
Wayne Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc./ABC Florida Gulf Coast Chapter

Silver: Allen Mello
Southern Fire Protection of Orlando, Inc./Florida Automatic Sprinkler Training, Inc.

Bronze: Billy Locy
Piper Fire Protection/ABC Florida Gulf Coast Chapter 

Safety: Brett Abramczyk
Brenneco Fire Protection/ABC Indiana/Kentucky Chapter

Gold: Andrew Lensink
De Troye Electric Service, Inc./ABC of Wisconsin Apprenticeship and Training Trust

Silver & Safety: Robert Caskey
Fidelity Engineering Corporation/ABC Baltimore Metro Chapter

Bronze: Jaden Henry
Moeller Furnace Co./ABC Iowa Chapter

Instrumentation Fitting
Gold: Jeremy Ranschau
Interstates Construction Services

Silver: Chase Groger 
ISC Constructors LLC/ABC Pelican Chapter

Bronze & Safety: Ren Babin
ISC Constructors LLC/ABC Pelican Chapter

Gold: Jose Chavez 
STARCON International Inc.

Silver: Jake Mitchler
L&C Insulation Inc./ABC of Wisconsin Apprenticeship and Training Trust

Bronze & Safety: Christopher Dudley
Old Dominion Insulation/ABC Virginia Chapter

Gold & Safety: Bradly White
Overberg Masonry Inc./Florida Masonry Apprentice and Educational Foundation Inc.

Silver: Samuel Connor
Advanced Masonry Systems/Florida Masonry Apprentice and Educational Foundation Inc.

Bronze: Randall Pepevnik
Masonry Builders Inc./Florida Masonry Apprentice and Educational Foundation Inc.

Millwright/Industrial Maintenance Mechanic
Gold: Robert Broadway 
McGill Maintenance Partnership Ltd./ABC Texas Gulf Coast Chapter’s Merit Shop Training Inc.

Silver & Safety: Colby Higgins

Bronze:Timothy Sargent
RPM Services Inc./ABC Texas Gulf Coast Chapter’s Merit Shop Training Inc.

Gold: Joel Dutton
TDIndustries/Construction Education Foundation of North Texas

Silver: William Kelley
Notch Mechanical Constructors/Gould Construction Institute

Bronze: Jordan McPherson
TDIndustries/Construction Education Foundation of North Texas

Safety: Jacob Rogers
S&B Engineers & Constructors Ltd.

Gold: Wade Fuller
Bill Rhiner’s Plumbing/ABC Iowa Chapter

Silver: Johnathan Davis
Shapiro & Duncan Inc.

Bronze: Rolf Wachter
Interpipe Contracting, Inc./ABC San Diego Chapter

Safety: Carl Castle
Colonial Webb Contractors/ABC Virginia Chapter

Sheet Metal
Gold: Tyler Miller
Proctor Mechanical Corp./ABC Iowa Chapter

Silver & Safety: Scott Vorarach
Certified Air Conditioning Inc./ABC San Diego Chapter

Bronze: Joel Sauvain
Protemp Associates Inc./ABC Pacific Northwest Chapter

Gold: Brandyn Kendall

Silver: Tyler Jennings Overby
TIC – The Industrial Company

Bronze: Joshua Tijerina
Zachry Industrial Inc.

Safety: Emmet Johnson
Setpoint Integrated Solutions/Performance Contractors Inc. and ABC New Orleans/Bayou Chapter

Gold: Israel Picon Jr.
Performance Contractors Inc./ABC Greater Houston Chapter

Silver: Ryan Beaver
Performance Contractors Inc./ABC New Orleans/Bayou Chapter

Bronze: Tommy Lykins
STARCON International

Safety: Jaime Nava-Zamora

2017 NCC Committee

The National Craft Championships Committee, which is composed of leading merit shop construction firms, plans all year for the two-day competition and dedicates countless hours to its success.

Mitch Clark
Comfort Systems USA
Committee Chair & HVAC Project Manager

Shon Smith 
ACI Mechanical Inc.
Committee Vice Chair & Sheet Metal Project Manager

Bill Lastinger
Benchmark Construction
Strategic Vice Chair & Carpentry Project Manager

Mark McCord
ABC Alabama Chapter
Event Coordinator

Tim Mongeau 
Zachry Industrial, Inc.
Event Coordinator

Steve Sjolander
L&C Insulation
Event Coordinator

Ricky Delafield 
ABC Pelican Chapter

Timothy Ely
Beacon Electric Company
Electrical Project Manager

Brad  Dutton 
Price Electric
Electrical Assistant Project Manager

Dave Dekelaita 
Power Design Inc.
Electrical Assistant Project Manager

David  Victor 
VSC Fire & Security, Inc.
Fire Sprinkler Project Manager

Mike Raven 
Cianbro Corporation
Instrumentation Fitting Project Manager

Mike Pope 
Greater Michigan Construction Academy
Insulation Project Manager

Al Herndon 
Florida Masonry Apprentice & Education Foundation
Masonry Project Manager

Julio Vazquez 
Florida Masonry Apprentice & Education Foundation
Masonry Project Manager

Larry Mustin 
Turner Industries Group, LLC
Millwright Project Manager

Bill Cherry 
Zachry Industrial, Inc.
Pipe Welding Project Manager

Jan Prakke 
Gulf Mechanical Contractors
Plumbing Project Manager

Michael Villar 
Repcon, Inc
Pipefitting Project Manager

Jon Sacks 
Cianbro Corporation
Power Line Demonstration Project Manager

Chris Weber 
ABC New Orleans/Bayou Chapter
Structural Welding Project Manager

Dan Barrow 
Zachry Industrial, Inc.
Team Competition Project Manager

Ralph Riley 
S&B Engineers & Constructors
Safety Demonstration Project Manager

Mike Stilley 
S&B Engineers & Constructors
Past Chair & Safety Manager

Ray Zamora 
AnchorBuilt, Inc.
ABC Executive Committee Liaison 

Doug Carlson 
ABC of the Carolinas
Chapter President Liaison

Greg Spenner 
ABC Iowa Chapter
Committee Member

Kelly Tourdot 
ABC Wisconsin Chapter

Lisa Nardone 
ABC National
Director & Staff Liaison 

Kirsten Krauer
ABC National

Kim Greene
ABC National

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