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Snapshots of 2016 NCC: More Narratives from the Event [VIDEO]

The 2016 ABC National Craft Championships (NCC) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida was a two-day competition last March between over 200 craft profession trainees and students.  This is the third in a series of posts featuring excerpts from conversations I had with some of the industry leaders I met at the event.  While the competitors were participating in the hands-on portion of the challenge, I talked with a VP from the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, a Project Manager for one of the craft competitions at the NCC, the Chair of ABC Illinois, and the ABC Vice President of EH&S and Workforce Development.

Patrick Etheredge, Vice President of Adult Training and Workforce Development for the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation (MCEF) was a general contractor before coming to work for MCEF in 2015.  I asked what sort of opportunities competing in the NCC competition could bring to the future craft professionals.  Etheredge answered:

“[The opportunities are] Endless.  Not just careers, but the exposure to other companies and exposure to other trades.  This is just a networker’s dream for not only the participants but for anybody who has the chance to visit.”

Etheredge also told me about one of the programs MCEF puts on each year: a career expo for students in the eighth grade called Pathway to Careers (P2C).  It offers an opportunity for the teenagers to interact and engage with construction careers that they otherwise might not ever have the chance to be exposed to.  During their last two-day event, MCEF hosted 1500 eighth-grade students from schools around Jackson, Mississippi who got to meet representatives from the industry and try hands-on activities.

Dave Dekelaita is project manager at Power Design Incorporated, a full-service electrical contractor headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida.  He spoke with me about his role as the Project Manager for the Commercial-Industrial Electrical competition at the NCC.  He said that the competition was planned for electrician apprentices who are currently working in the industrial and commercial industry.  The competition is based on wiring methods, codes, and common practices.  Competitors are given instruction and material.  He said, “They start from nothing, and at the end of the day hopefully they have built something – in this case a conveyor system – that will work.”  He told me that the competitors are scored not just on how well they work, but how safely they perform the tasks.  In fact, safety represents 20% of their total scores.  They are also judged on material management, labor management, and planning.  He said the judges “are not only looking at apprentices, but are developing leaders.”

Tom Wanamaker of Manhattan Mechanical Services LLC and Chapter Chair of ABC Illinois spoke with me about the Team Competition.  In the other competitions for each specific craft, the competitors were all fairly new to their crafts (they were required to be trainees or students in order to compete), but in the Team Competition, the competitors were all journeymen.  Each team consisted of one each of the following craft professionals: pipefitter, insulator, millwright, carpenter, and electrician.  After taking a written exam, they worked together to complete a series of craft-specific tasks in a six-hour period.  Wanamaker: “The idea is to showcase the different crafts working together.”

The Team Competition began as a demonstration to showcase how the professionals from different crafts work together.  There was only one team the first year, but as the event organizers watched the team working together, Wanamaker told me, the organizers said to each other “Hey, this is exciting seeing the team work together – we should do a team competition!”

The three teams participating in 2016 represented ABC Iowa, ABC Illinois, and Cianbro, a civil and heavy industrial construction company.  In the video below, you will hear Wanamaker proudly talking about the ABC Illinois team, excitedly saying “One of my goals as Chairman this year is to win a medal in the Craft Championships, and I think we are going to do it!”  (Sadly for the Illinois team, the Gold was awarded to the ABC Iowa Apprenticeship & Training Trust.)

At the end of the day, just after the horn had signaled the end of the competition and as the competitors were leaving the hall, I caught up with Greg Sizemore, ABC Vice President of EH&S and Workforce Development.  He was excited to share a few thoughts about what the National Craft Championships meant to him.  He said:

“What you see around me is one of the showcase events.  This is the largest event in the history of the Associated Builders and Contractors.  This is the future of our industry; this is the future of our workforce; this is the future of who we are.  Today the guys that you see walking beside me here are the best of the best.  They are the true champions of our industry.”

You can watch excerpts from these interviews in the 4½-minute video below.