Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA: 619-997-2495 or

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SD Transcript: Construction Competition Brings Out The Best

Originally published in the San Diego Transcript

With the recent 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games fresh in their memory, San Diego’s construction craft apprentices made their way to Long Beach, California to pursue their own medals at the 2018 Associated Builders and Contractors National Craft Competition in Long Beach, California.

With a large group of supporters cheering them on, three of the ABC San Diego Chapter’s five competitors won a Gold Medal and two Bronze Medals. These wins extend San Diego’s multi-year winning streak to nine years in a row, for a total of 24 total medals over 18 years of competition, including a nine-year winning streak.

Daniel Fortini of Ramona, employed by Alpha Mechanical, won Gold in Sheet Metal. Alberto

Ceballos of Poway, an employee of WH Robbins took the Sheet Metal Bronze. Kevin Mizicko of Spring Valley, employed by Western Pump, won the Bronze in Electrical.

Also competing on behalf of ABC San Diego was Joshua Stuart of San Marcos representing Bergelectric in San Diego in the Electrical competition. Gabriel Avila Cuenca of Escondido, employed by Davis Mechanical, competed in the Plumbing competition.

It’s fun to win, but it also proves an important point better than any argument I can make in this column. Any apprentice who prepares and works hard enough has a chance of winning this nationwide competition in any given year. But when you build a long track record of winning year after year, it sends a message about the quality of the training program, as well as the quality of the individuals.

When a program like the ABCSD Apprenticeship Training Program delivers so many national winners our results speak for themselves. It is undeniable proof of the skills our apprentices develop through high quality instruction and hands-on application of what they learn.

ABCSD apprentices graduate as the journeymen and women building our region’s businesses, schools, hospitals, homes, infrastructure, military complexes, and so much more. Our families are the ones who live, work, and play in these buildings. We count on the security, safety, and efficiency of the infrastructure, heating and cooling, electrical systems, and plumbing.

In addition to the five apprentices, the ABCSD Apprenticeship Training Program also contributed many of the judges who assessed the efforts of the competitors. Some of them, including Kevin Strahler of West Coast Air Conditioning, and Clayton Courtier of Southcoast Heating & Air, are former national medalists themselves. The remaining judges represent a wide variety of regional businesses and organizations: Jeff Bridges, JB Fire Protection; Michael Doyle, SoCal Youth Alliance; Joel Fuentes, Adam Ortiz, and Dale Kilgore, Pacific Rim Mechanical; Scott Larzalere, Alpha Mechanical; Mark Martinak, MW Mechanical; Jason McClanahan, Certified Air; Martin Stevens and Rob White, Atlas Mechanical; and Steve Yanta, CAFSA.

Ten of our Apprenticeship training instructors were also on hand to encourage their students and to absorb the latest in training and building techniques, including David Blickenstaff, Dylan Conforth, Ryan Daley, Dale Kilgore, Eric Kliebenstein, Brad Parkinson, Dana Parks, Sean Ryan, Tom Skibinski, and Lance Zangger. Blickenstaff and Zangger are also former national medalists.

Rarely do we have an opportunity to name individuals whose efforts have a direct impact on our lives, and this is why I’ve taken the time and space in this month’s column to demonstrate how many people it takes to deliver a quality trained construction craft workforce for the 21st century.

The competition validates the career training process of apprenticeship, and helps promote the value of careers in construction. ABC is committed to developing a world-class construction workforce. Construction remains a tremendous career opportunity for millions across the country.

The construction industry faces a shortage of 1.6 million skilled workers by 2022. The National Craft Championships are a part of ABC’s effort to raise the profile of careers in construction and highlight the $1.1 billion ABC member companies spend annually on workforce development.

As the current workforce ages out and retires without a steady supply of new talent, who will build the nation’s roads, bridges, hospitals, stadiums, convention centers, offices and homes when this happens? It takes more than willing hands and a strong back to create them. It takes strong skills in reading and math along with the technical expertise to effectively perform these increasingly sophisticated jobs.

We love showing off the very best the merit shop construction industry has to offer and drawing needed attention to the terrific career opportunities available in the construction industry. Watch out, America, San Diego will be back next year.

Walter Fritz is President and CEO of Nuera Contracting, and chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors San Diego board of directors. For more information visit

ABCSD  I  13825 Kirkham Way Poway, CA 92064  I  Tel: 858.513.4700  I  Fax: 858.513.2373  I  I

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