Last month, the Associated Builders and Contractors hosted the 2017 National Craft Championships, a two-day competition for craft profession trainees and apprentices. While the competitors were completing the six-hour hands-on portion of the competition, I spoke with project managers for some of the skilled craft competitions to get an idea of what the competitors were being asked to do.
Mike Raven, an Electrical Instrumentation General Foreman for Cianbro Corporation, was the project manager for the Instrumentation Fitting Competition. I asked what the Instrument Fitters were being tasked to do for the competition. Raven said, “Today they have to run three sizes of tubing, mount two instruments, do some light wiring for a relay, a solenoid valve, and a float switch – [all] to make this system function, so it circulates water from a large tank to a small tank and back to the large tank.” I asked what types of industries use this skill. Raven answered that the paper industry, the refinery industry, and most petrochemical systems use instrumentation fitters. I learned that sometimes people become instrumentation technicians as a secondary trade after becoming electricians, pipefitters, or carpenters. Raven said, “We try to train carpenters to do this work, because by the time a job gets done with the carpentry, this trade picks up, so if they have both skills, they can work the beginning of the job as a carpenter and roll right into instrumentation, running tubing at the end of the project.”
Michael Villar of Repcon, an industrial services company, was the Pipefitting Competition project manager. Competitors in pipefitting had two separate tasksto complete, so half of the group worked to build a threaded pipe spool for three hours while the other half completed a welding project, and the two groups switched tasks after the lunch break. The tasks required the competitors to read a plan, gather the materials needed, measure and cut, thread, and assemble according to exact dimensions and orientation.
I asked Villar about his background in the industry. Villar began as a helper years ago and moved up to become a pipefitter, then a superintendent, and is now a project manager. In addition to his on-the-job training, he took ABC classes in pipefitting and in project controls, which helped him to become a project manager.
Finally, I spoke with Jan Prakke, who works in Operations and Safety Training for Gulf Mechanical Contractors LLC, and was the project manager for the Plumbing Competition. He explained that the plumbing competitors were each working individually to install the rough outline of a bathroom, including water closets, sinks, and floor drains. They were doing the reventing and the water piping. Prakke said they “will use all the different steps in plumbing that they use every day. For example they will be doing PVC, cast iron, copper – they will be soldering and brazing it as well as using the CPVC pipe.”
The competitors were given a total of six hours to complete the assignment. Prakke had previously used an estimation program to see how long it should take to complete all of the work, and the program estimated that it would take right at six hours. He smiled as he said “Keep your fingers crossed and hope they all finish.” At the time, it was already after their lunch break, so the competitors were already working into the second half of their time. Prakke remarked that sometimes this is “when the panic sets in.”
You may watch excerpts from these interviews in the 4-minute video below, and watch for more coverage of the event in upcoming posts here on Construction Citizen, and click on any image to enlarge.