Following the 2016 ABC National Craft Championships in Fort Lauderdale last month, Michael Noschese and Jose Morua, the gold and silver medalists in the Structural Welding competition, spoke with myself and fellow Construction Citizen author Jasmine Swoope about their experiences in the competition. In a classroom at the CMEF facility in La Porte, Texas, we first heard from the winner of the Gold Medal in Structural Welding, Michael Noschese.
Elizabeth McPherson: Michael, congratulations on your gold-medal win in structural welding at the National Craft Championships. What was it like when you were in the middle of the competition, and you were doing your welds? Were you thinking about the competition or were you just so focused?
Michael Noschese: I was mainly focused on the welding. I tried to stay calm. I was calm throughout the whole thing, mainly. I just did the welding.
EM: And did it look to you like you were doing a good job? Did you think you might have a chance at winning the medal?
MN: I definitely had no idea. You know, I have put out better welds than that, but I did what I did. I guess it was the best.
EM: They were judging you on safety as well as on the quality of the weld, correct?
MN: Yeah – safety, quality of the weld, and overall – there was a written part; so we had to know our technical aspect to it.
EM: How hard was that written part?
MN: It was pretty straightforward. Everything that I had studied for was on there.
EM: So you felt very well prepared.
MN: Yes, I was extremely well prepared.
EM: What was the hardest part of the competition?
MN: Probably reading the blueprint. I haven’t [worked with] that many blueprints, but I thought I did pretty well.
EM: When you went to the awards ceremony and they called your name, what did that make you feel like?
MN: My legs started shaking a little – I wasn’t expecting it. I was pretty surprised.
EM: You got to go up on stage and accept your award…
EM: And what about when you got back to school? What did your fellow classmates say?
MN: Everyone was pretty proud of me – they were pretty happy – maybe jealous a little bit.
Jasmine Swoope: When you won, did you know that you were the youngest, that you had made history in that moment?
MN: I assumed that I was the youngest, yes.
JS: That is a lot of responsibility.
EM: Next year, you have been invited back to study pipe welding, and go back and compete again.
MN: Yes, I have a lot of opportunities to further my education in welding. Job opportunities and stuff.
EM: You are graduating [from high school!] this spring. Have you already started interviewing for jobs?
MN: I have something lined up right now. As soon as I turn 18 [-years old], I am going for the interview. Performance, Incorporated wants to hire me as a pipefitter-helper, the day after I turn 18.
EM: That is very exciting! We wish you well in your future, and congratulations on your win!
Michael didn’t tell his mother that he had won the gold medal until he arrived off of the plane from Florida into Houston. He wanted to “tell her in person and see her reaction!”
Jasmine Swoope asked Michael what he tells his other friends who may not be in the construction industry when they ask about this competition. Michael said that they were extremely curious about what he does, especially since they don’t go to the Career and Technical High School where Michael attends. He said, “But they know the magnitude of what I have done, and they are pretty happy for me.”
Jasmine asked what he would tell his friends who might be considering making the switch in school toward Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses to join the construction industry.
Michael answered, “There is never a shortage [of job opportunities] for people who do this trade. There is a huge demand for people who have the skills. There are people that are 30 who are just getting into this craft. It’s like some people decide to do this as a career in their 20’s or 30’s and it still happens – so it is really never too late.”
Next we heard from the winner of the Silver Medal in Structural Welding, Jose Morua. Jasmine asked him to describe how he felt while he was competing in Fort Lauderdale using just two words.
Jose Morua: Nervous. Confident.
Jasmine Swoope: Nervous and confident? You know those two words don’t always go together.
JM: But it happens.
JS: Tell me about that.
JM: I was nervous because I am not that good with that many books, and I had to study a lot – but once I got to put my “hands on” I felt more confident.
JS: You have to give me more than that.
JM: Once I started doing my “hands on” – my task was to do a vertical weld, and an overhead – I felt more confident when I was actually doing the task. When I was doing the books, I was not feeling too good about those.
I asked if at the awards ceremony he was expecting his name to be called. Jose answered:
“No, I did not expect my name to be called. I saw some of the other competitors finish way before me, but I guess it went by quality, also.”
The competitors had three hours to complete an assigned task, and then everyone broke for lunch. Later that afternoon, everyone had another three hours to complete a different task. If a task was not complete at the end of the 3-hour time period, the competitor had to leave it unfinished.
JS: What was your game plan going into the welding competition?
JM: I was nervous about the judges walking around and looking at you, but at school we have the same booth. So what I did at school to break that nervousness from people looking at me – I would leave my blinds open so that when people were walking around, I could feel them standing right next to me. I kind of did that so that I would not feel so nervous when people were looking at me [at the NCC in Florida].
JS: So you are at the award ceremony, and they call your name. [What is your] First thought?
JM: I had to look at the screen, because my last name is hard to say, and when they said it, I had to look at the screen, and [yes!] it was my last name. I stood up, and walked over. I was nervous.
JS: So what piece of advice would you give to someone who is thinking about competing next year. They may be nervous or feeling like they are not good enough, or that they may not have studied hard enough to go to the competition?
JM: What made me feel good, the whole time that I was up there is that people kept telling me that “they brought nothing but the best” – they kept telling me that over and over, so that they know that we are good at what we are doing. Even if I didn’t win, they brought me up here for a reason. They brought me because they know that I am doing good. That gave me more motivation, and made me feel good about what I did. It feels good a little bit.
I asked what the reaction has been at his workplace at Jacobs. Jose said it has been good, and that they are helping him to practice to become a combo-welder. He said “Jacobs has been really good to me, and I thank them for doing everything that they have for me.” Jose’s goal is to become a rig welder and to “make good money.”
You can hear parts of these interviews in the 4½ minute video below.