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Apprentices compete for five national titles


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June 25, 2015

Some of the top apprentices in the pipefitting trades from across Canada converged in Toronto in June for the United Association’s national apprentice competition – the eighth such event and the third to be held in the city.

Hosted by Toronto Local 46, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, the June 8 to 12 event brought together 15 apprentices from UA locals in plumbing, steamfitting, welding, sprinkler fitting and HVAC/R to be tested on their skills and theoretical understanding of their trade.

The competition, which was accompanied by a trade show for the pipe trades, was held at Local 46’s training facility on Warden Avenue. Regional finalists competed for five national titles. Winners were announced at an awards lunch. Attendees included John Telford, the UA’s Ottawa-based director of Canadian affairs and Larry Slaney, UA Canada’s director of Canadian training.

“The people (apprentices) who are sitting before me in this room today are the future of the UA,” Telford said. He noted that the union has the “safest, most professional and most productive” workforce in the piping industry.

The competition involved a mix of both theory and blueprint examinations, along with practical, real-world-based assignments. Several safety meetings were also scheduled. Slaney said the purpose was to showcase the apprentices’ skills and to provide a forum for networking for the contestants, as well as UA training co-ordinators from across the country, trade show exhibitors and industry partners.

Last year’s winners in each of the five trades served as judges.

The 20 or so trade show vendors included manufacturers and distributors of products used in the pipe trades industry. Other exhibitors were the Greater Toronto chapter of the Canada Green Building Council and the Ontario College of Trades.

One highlight of the week was the “Spend a Day with MCA” event. Participants included competitors, last year’s returning champions, union representatives and mechanical contractors’ association officials. The day included guided tours of the Steam Whistle Brewery and the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. A stop was also made at the CN Tower. Locations visited contained, in some part or in their entirety, piping systems installed by the UA. Several members of the board of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Toronto attended the awards lunch.

Contestants were drawn from the East, Central and West Regions.

Competition winners were: Cody Beck of Local 67 (plumbing); Mike Malloy of Local 527 (steamfitting); Alanna Marklund of Local 488 (welding); Lyle Beliveau of Local 853 (sprinkler fitting); and Brandon Ness of Local 787 (HVAC/R). Matthew Vandevyvere of Local 254 took home the winning attitude award.

The five national winners will compete in an upcoming international UA apprentice competition to be held August 8 to 13 in Ann Arbor, MI.

By all accounts, the apprentices found the competition both challenging and enlightening.

Welding competitor Cara Gallant of Local 325, who was gearing up to write her Red Seal exams, said she learned a lot during the week and “had a great time” competing. She was “super happy” that a woman (Alanna Marklund) won the welding competition.

“I am definitely going to follow her experiences in Ann Arbor on Facebook,” Gallant said.

Beck, who took the silver medal in the plumbing category in the 2014 Skills Canada national competition in Toronto, said this year’s practical assignments were “spot on” for the trade.

“They were exactly what we do (on a day-to-day basis),” he said.

Beck, a third-year apprentice, found meeting with peers from across the country a rewarding experience.  He is “overwhelmed” at the prospect of competing in Ann Arbor.

“I hear it is just unbelievable,” he said.

For his part, Vandevyvere, who also had “a lot of fun” participating in the competition, was surprised to receive the winning attitude award. The recipient was selected by the competitors at the end of the week.

“Everybody’s attitude was fantastic – from giving high fives, to offering congratulations, to asking ‘how are you doing’ and saying ‘you’ll do better on the next one’,” he said.

UA training co-ordinators from across the country were involved in planning the event. Locals 787 and 853 were responsible for organizing the HVAC/R and sprinkler fitting competition challenges.

Vince Kacaba, director of training at Local 46, said the competition has proven to be a great success, stimulating interest in the trades from both inside and outside the UA, as well as acting as a tool in promoting the skills and abilities of the industry’s future leaders.

Next year’s competition will be held in Edmonton.

Patricia Williams is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

Photos: United Association



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