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Teacher, training coordinator, employee, volunteer, mentor, friend. Craft instructors wear a lot of hats, and the best ones possess creativity, a positive attitude and a collection of innovative methods to transfer knowledge to students with a variety of learning styles. 

Jonathan SackJonathan Sacks, Cianbros, a transmission and distribution training manager at Cianbro in Pittsfield, Maine, embodies all of these characteristics as Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) 2015 Craft Instructor of the Year. He received the honor in March during ABC’s Workforce Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Sacks is the third Cianbro craft trainer to win the award.

 “Our industry has a well-documented shortage of skilled labor, and the commitment of instructors such as Jon will go a long way in providing America with its next generation of skilled craft professionals,” says 2015 ABC National Chair Pamela Volm, president of Annapolis Contracting Inc., Annapolis, Md.

Sacks is a graduate of the University of Maine and began his career with Cianbro in 1993 as an electrician/foreman. He helped establish what is now called the Cianbro Institute and was a founding father of the ABC Maine Craft Championships. In his current role, he develops and coordinates training efforts for all transmission, distribution and substation needs. He holds a Master Trainer certification from NCCER and previously worked as a public school teacher in Maine.

“Jon’s ability to facilitate peer instruction and group activities to allow the students to become better acquainted with each other fosters the core value of teamwork that is so important to our company,” says Cianbro Vice President Michael W. Bennett. “Because Jon creates such a comfortable atmosphere, students are more at ease and open to learning. His unique teaching style brings even the most difficult theory down to earth at a level students easily relate to and build upon.”

Sacks’ students agree. “I was always amazed when Jon could tell one of us wasn’t getting it. He had a special way of backing up and approaching the subject matter in a different way, without singling anyone out,” says Andrew Bowden, now a supervisor for Cianbro. “He had a passion for making sure that we understood, not just memorized, what he said. I still look to Jon today not only as an instructor, but also as a mentor and a friend.”

Building that level of trust and personal connection with students is typical for Sacks.

“Jon spent countless hours of his own time tutoring me on the electrical code, which in turn helped me pass my electrical license exam. He has always helped steer me in the right direction, whether I needed technical assistance or advice regarding my personal growth and career path,” says Garret Plourde, who now works as a safety specialist for Cianbro.

In addition to his role training craft workers at Cianbro, Sacks teaches night classes at a local community college, serves as a volunteer board member for the Down East Construction Education Foundation and the NCCER Workforce Development Board, and participates in several advisory committees for local high school career and technical education programs.

As ABC’s 2015 Craft Instructor of the Year, Sacks received a $10,000 cash prize from NCCER and the Trimmer Construction Education Foundation. The other nominees for the Craft Instructor of the Year award were:
For more information about nominating someone for ABC’s 2016 Craft Instructor of the Year award, visit www.abc.org.

Joanna Masterson is senior editor of Construction Executive. For more information, email masterson@abc.org, visit www.constructionexec.com or follow @ConstructionMag.

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