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2017 NCC Careers In Construction Awards [VIDEO]

The 2017 ABC National Craft Championships concluded with an awards ceremony at 8:30 am Friday morning in the Floridian Ballroom of the Greater Fort Lauderdale and Broward County Convention Center.  I was privileged to attend the hands-on portion of the two-day competition for craft profession trainees and apprentices, as well as the awards ceremony Friday morning for what Greg Sizemore, ABC Vice President of EH&S and Workforce Development, called “The biggest and best celebration of merit shop construction.”

Awards were presented for Craft Instructor of the Year and Craft Professional of the Year, and a special thank you to the NCC Committee with a description of all they do was presented.  Then began the announcements of the winners of each craft in which Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals plus one Safety Award were presented to competitors in each of 14 different categories.

For the third year in a row, a CMEF-sponsored competitor won the Gold Medal in Structural Welding at the National Craft Championships!  The Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF), is the educational affiliate of ABC Greater Houston.  This year, Israel Picon, representing Performance Contractors, Inc., won the Gold; and Jaime Nava-Zamora, representing Jacobs and whom I interviewed in Texas before we all travelled to Florida, won the Safety Award in the structural welding competition.

After the awards had all been presented, the host and emcee of the morning, Greg Spenner, president and CEO of ABC Iowa Chapter, addressed the competitors.  He told them:

“Whether or not you are going home with a medal today, each and every one of you should feel proud to be a part of an elite group of champions.  What you did here this week is a huge accomplishment, and this is just the beginning for you.  It’s a badge of honor that you will carry with you throughout everything you do, and onto every jobsite you step foot on.  I look out at you, and I see not only craft trainees dedicated to excellence in their craft – I see the next generation of leaders at ABC, the next generation of craft instructors, the next generation of construction company owners.  I can’t wait to see what you can accomplish!”

As soon as the ceremony was over, I spoke with Kristopher Sifuentes and Jaime Nava-Zamora, structural welding competitors representing Jacobs and sponsored by ABC Houston’s Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF).  Over the cacophony of music blasting over the loudspeakers and excited voices celebrating the end of the competition, I asked Jaime Nava-Zamora, winner of the Safety Award in structural welding, what the competition had been like for him.  Nava-Zamora said, “As we got here, I did get a little bit more nervous to see the amount of people and the magnitude of the actual competition.  Man – it’s something big; it’s something special!  But it’s overall nice that people do things like this for us construction workers.  It makes us appreciate what we do a little bit more.”

Just outside of the ballroom, I caught up with Michael Noschese, Ramiro Maldonado, and Israel Picon (this year’s structural welding gold medalist) – all ABC National Craft Championships Welding competitors representing Performance Contractors, Inc. and sponsored by CMEF.  I asked Picon how he felt during the practical “hands on” part of the competition the day before.  As passersby shouted their congratulations to the champion, Picon answered, “I usually get nervous, but this time I was taking my time on it. … I studied hard, put effort into it, and it paid off.”

Maldonado added, “It was a good experience.  We did pretty good too, but the best one out of all of us won.  It was tough.  You put your mind to the test, and you were just doing work and getting it done.  That's all there was to it.”

Michael Noschese won the gold medal in structural welding in the 2016 competition, and this year competed in the pipe welding competition.  I asked him about the difficulty of the challenge this year.  He answered, “We had a jig set-up, so it was a bit restrictive, and you were not as comfortable.  Other than that, it was like any other day welding.”

Which, Noschese says, is a good thing.

You can watch these interviews in the 2-minute video below, and look for more stories from the 2017 National Craft Championships in upcoming posts here on Construction Citizen.