Left to right: David Blickenstaff, Keegan Donohue, and Gerardo Diaz
(San Diego) – David Blickenstaff of Poway representing Prime Electrical Services in San Marcos and Gerardo Diaz of South San Diego representing Certified Air Conditioning in San Diego will bring medals home to San Diego from the 2016 Associated Builders and Contractors National Craft Championships. Blickenstaff won the Gold Medal in the Commercial/Industrial Electrical competition, and Diaz won the Silver Medal in Sheet Medal. Diaz also won the Safety Award. The Championships were held at the ABC National Workforce Development Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This prestigious competition brings together the top apprentices and trainees in the country who vie to be named “number one” in each of thirteen trades.
The two medals this year bring San Diego’s total up to 19 medals won by San Diego competitors in 16 years of national competition, including a winning streak of seven straight years.
Also competing on behalf of ABC San Diego was local Plumbing Champion Keegan Donahue of La Mesa, representing Pacific Rim Mechanical in San Diego.
San Diego’s representatives matched their professional skills against the winners of other regional and state competitions around the country. Prior to the competition, each spent several weeks studying and practicing his skills at the ABC Apprenticeship Training Trust lab facilities in Poway. They received guidance and tips from ABCSD’s instructors and previous competitors.
Gerardo Diaz during competition on Thursday, March 3, enroute to winning a Silver Medal and a Safety Trophy in Sheet Metal
Silver Medalist Gerardo Diaz admitted he was nervous at first but then got down to business. “For about 10 minutes I couldn’t do any math,” Diaz laughed. “But then I got started and worked slow and steady. I tried not to make any mistakes.” Diaz said he could not have won without the support of the extended ABC family, thanking previous Sheet Metal winners Clayton Courter and Kevin Strahler. “Kevin and Clayton gave me great advice. They spent time with me and I really appreciated it,” said Diaz. Diaz says he expects the winning streak to continue in 2017. “I think our chances are good of keeping the streak going. We have some excellent second and third year apprentices. I have all the faith in the world they will win it too.”
Supporters from ABC San Diego traveled to Florida to support the competitors, including Sherry Yarbrough, ABC Apprenticeship Training Trust Executive Director, and William Smyth, Chief Financial Officer of Sherwood Mechanical and Apprenticeship Training Trust board member. “Our competitors already have so much on their plates, working full time and attending their regular apprentice training classes and labs,” said Yarbrough. “But they somehow find the time to put in extra hours preparing for the competition. They feel the responsibility of being representatives of all their fellow apprentices and trainees and they don’t want to let them down."
Commercial/Industrial Electrical Gold Medal winner David Blickenstaff working on his project during competition on Thursday, March 3.
Yarbrough said the competition is about more than just winning medals. “Anyone who competes at the national level is a person who is willing to put in the time and hard work to achieve excellence. This is the same attitude they have on the job, and what makes them exceptional employees and crafts people every day. It shows in the quality of the projects they work on including public projects like hospitals and military facilities.”
A conference highlight, the ABC National Craft Championships event started in 1987 as a way to recognize the high quality of craft training in construction careers. The competition emphasizes the important role craft skills training plays in construction, by evaluating contestants’ knowledge of their craft as well as their skill and talent.
The first part of the competition features a written test of the competitor’s technical and theoretical knowledge. On day two, apprentices and craft trainees are assigned their workspaces, and given the plans, tools and materials they need to build professional projects. Judges observe and inspect the ongoing work being performed. When time is called, the judges move in for the final inspection. All of this takes place before a live audience. Results are announced in award ceremonies the final day.
To compete in the national event, contestants must first complete hundreds of hours of classroom training and thousands of hours of practical field experience to be eligible for preliminary local competitions.
About ABC San Diego
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national trade association representing 22,000 members from more than 19,000 construction and industry-related firms. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which they work. The San Diego Chapter of ABC represents construction and construction-related firms throughout San Diego County. To find out more about ABCSD, visit, www.abcsd.org