Next week the 2017 National Craft Championships, hosted by the Associated Builders and Contractors of America  (ABC), will take place at the beautiful Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale. Prior to their trip to Florida, I was able to meet up with three of the craft trainees and apprentices from the Houston area who will be competing in the event. Each of these competitors is sponsored by the Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF) , the educational affiliate of ABC Greater Houston. Each of them receives CMEF Training either at a CMEF sponsored college campus or at the CMEF training facility in La Porte, Texas.
Eleazar Hinojosa will be participating in the Structural Welding competition. He currently works for Turner Industries  and also takes training courses at San Jacinto College . Eleazar began taking welding classes while he was a student at Ross S. Sterling High School in Baytown, Texas. His training took place at Goose Creek Consolidated ISD’s Stuart Career Center , a vocational and career training campus serving multiple Baytown high schools. Eleazar began working for Turner Industries soon after his high school graduation, now nearly two years ago. He was working at an entry-level job, but still dreamed of getting back to welding. This fall he was able to continue his training by taking classes at San Jacinto College, where he just completed the combo welding course.
Eleazar learned about the available careers in welding through his high school. Once he learned a little about the craft, he discovered that he really liked it. He said with a smile, “I got stuck in a class and I just liked what I did. I just kept doing it.”
Jaime Nava-Zamora began his construction career while working and learning some basic skills through hands-on training from his fellow employees at the first company he worked for. He did not have any classes in construction until after he was hired by his current employer, Jacobs , who encouraged him to further his training at Lee College  in Baytown in addition to working at Jacobs’ jobsites. I asked Jaime what inspired him to pursue a career in construction. He said that ever since he began working in the industry, he started seeing that there are actually “career ladders” for individuals to move up within companies. He added, “I enjoy doing things with my hands – being out there, outdoors. To me it is more exciting than just to be at a desk.”
Jaime learned about the National Craft Championships from one of his instructors at Lee College who suggested that Jaime enter the competition. The instructor even went so far as to email the training coordinator at the Jacobs jobsite. The training coordinator spoke with Jaime about the competition, and encouraged him to compete.
When I asked Jaime what he would like to be doing in his career 10 years from now, he told me, “I believe welding could be a gateway to maybe even move up somewhere else within the industry – maybe to be teaching others.” He is also considering management, and said he is “open to new things. That is my goal everyday – to just learn something new.”
Jeremy Bushnell served for four years in the United States Navy, where he learned skills that he has been able to bring forward into his construction career such as working with power tools. Jeremy’s father and some other family members had careers in construction, so two years ago, after his service in the Navy, Jeremy decided to follow in their footsteps. He currently learns through hands-on training while working for KBR  in addition to taking classes at the Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF ). Jeremy also shares his time with his wife and daughter. I asked Jeremy to tell me what he enjoys about pipefitting. He answered:
“It is meeting new people. You go from job to job, you meet new people, and you learn so much – nobody teaches you the same thing in the same way. There’s always different ways of learning. Normally it is easier than [when] the last person showed you how to do it.”
I asked what he hoped to be doing with his career in the future. He said, “Same thing: pipefitting, welding – be someone’s boss. Basically just go as high as I can go until I can’t anymore.” He said he felt confident that he would be able to have a successful career for as many years as he wants to work.
Watch excerpts from my interviews of these three competitors in the following 3-minute video, and look for more coverage of the ABC National Craft Championships in upcoming posts here on Construction Citizen.