L-45’s Brown wins national apprentice competition

Jason Brown, Local 45, accepts the first-place trophy from Intl. Pres. Newton Jones, l., and Intl. V.P. Sean Murphy.

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Title is first for Richmond, Va., lodge; L-69’s Tucker takes second place

GRADUATE APPRENTICE Jason Brown broke new ground for his lodge Sept. 27 – Oct. 1 by becoming the first L-45 (Richmond, Va.) member to win the Boilermakers’ national outstanding apprenticeship competition. Brown was also the first L-45 member ever to place in the Southeast area event — he was runner-up in that competition, held July 27-30 at L-199 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Brown’s teammate, Thomas Tucker, Local 69 (Little Rock, Ark.), placed second in the national event, and the pair also won the national team award for the Southeast area.

Tucker broke ground of his own this past summer by winning the Southeast area competition, becoming the first L-69 member to do so.

Results of the four-day national competition, held at the Boilermakers’ national training center in Kansas City, Kan., were announced at an awards banquet Oct. 1 at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Other graduate apprentices competing this year were, from the Western States, Luke Lafley, Local 242 (Spokane, Wash.), and David Hoogendoorn, Local 549 (Pittsburg, Calif.); from the Northeast Area, Michael Toth, Local 237 (Hartford, Conn.), and Eric Buskey Sr., Local 5 Zone 197 (Albany, N.Y.); and from the Great Lakes, Matthew Vodraska, Local 744 (Cleveland), and Ryan Woods, Local 27 (St. Louis).

All eight contestants earned their way to the national event by winning the top spot in their local lodge competition and finishing in one of the top two spots in their area competition.

Apprentices compete in four areas

BNAP LEAD INSTRUCTOR John Standish said the 2009 competition mirrored last year’s event, with contestants vying for points in four areas: classroom, rigging, Boilermaker skills, and welding. Contestants could earn a maximum of 300 points in each area.

The classroom work included a 10-hour written exam on Boilermaker history and organization, OSHA safety rules, and on-the-job training issues.

In the rigging test, contestants set up and performed a tank lift using winches, a boom derrick, and an equalizer beam, controlling the lift using hand signals. The tank had to be placed onto a pad at a specific elevation and nozzle location. The test required contestants to reeve a four-part line and calculate the percentages of the load to be carried by the line and the derrick. Also in this section, contestants showed their skills with ropes and knots as well as blocks and reeving.

Apprentices competed in five areas under the Boilermaker skills’ section. These included tube rolling, layout and fabrication, boiler component identification, tool identification and use, and CPR. Contestants laid out a small boiler hopper replica to scale, calculated dimensions, cut and bent the metal, and assembled the replica. Another task involved laying out a structural member with precise alignment of bolt holes.

In the welding section, judges evaluated the contestants’ skills in tube welding, plate welding (using 3/16- and 5/32-diameter welding rods), burning, stud welding, arc gouging, and safety.

The apprentices were given five hours to remove and replace a failed tube from a water wall section. They measured and cut the tube, then replaced it using heliarc and SMAW techniques. Judges assessed measuring skills, quality of cuts, beveling, and membrane welding. Welds were tested by X-ray for conformance to ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) standards, with points deducted for any weld failures.

BNAP’s Standish was impressed with how relaxed the competitors appeared. “This was an extremely focused group, and they seemed to be very calm,” he said. “I think part of that had to do with the camaraderie these guys developed right at the start.”

Judges for the 2009 competition were, from the Southeast Area, Stephen Speed, IR, and Randall James of M&D Power Constructors; from the Western States, Dale Mason, Local 502 instructor, and David Gleason of Contractors Cargo; from the Great Lakes Area, Robert Schwartz, asst. bus. mgr. for Local 1 (Chicago), and Theodore Heda of Hayes Mechanical; from the Northeast Area, Michael Stanton, chief welding instructor for Local 154 (Pittsburgh), and Michael Bray of Shelby Mechanical Inc.; and from the National Transient Division, Ronny Vanscoy, IR-CSO, and Robert Coach of CBI Services Inc.

William Elrod, retired AIP, served as the test administrator.

Banquet honors contestants

THE RESULTS OF the 2009 competition were announced during the awards banquet held on the final day of the event. The banquet honored all of the contestants and acknowledged those who promote the Boilermaker apprenticeship program throughout the year.

Intl. Pres. Newton B. Jones described the competition as “a special celebration of that which makes us a skilled craft and a progressive union —specifically, our commitment to apprenticeship training and the passing down of our best craft knowledge and traditions.” Addressing the contestants, he added, “You are now our standard bearers. You carry the flag of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers every time you walk in the gate, every time you strike an arc, and every time you complete a job.”

“I learned I could handle the pressure…”

PARTICIPANTS IN THE national apprenticeship competition study hard before the event, hitting the books and reviewing practical skills and knowledge gained on the job. But when the contest is over, they often find that one of the most important lessons is about themselves.

“I learned I could handle the pressure better than I thought I could,” said Brown, after being named the winner.

He said some of the stress was relieved by the camaraderie. “I kind of thought that with everybody competing against each other people would keep to themselves. That wasn’t the way it worked. We had a good time together, joking around. Everybody wanted to make the best of the situation.”

The 24-year-old, who lives in Maysville, W.Va., with his wife and two children, is a first-generation Boilermaker. He worked for a nonunion fabrication shop until 2003, when the company went under. Brown earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in welding technology at West Virginia University in Parkersburg. He was looking for work when his brother-in-law, Local 45 member Adam Waldron, encouraged him to apply with the Boilermakers.

“It was pretty good advice,” said Brown. “Looking back on it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are a lot of people I would like to thank; so many had a hand in teaching me. I couldn’t possibly single out just one person.”

L-45 BM-ST Frank Hartsoe said his lodge is “so proud of him…just ecstatic. Jason is a humble guy with a lot of common sense. It’s great to see the respect he has garnered by the win. His fellow workers bought him a cake and had it there [at Dominion’s Bellemeade Power Station in Richmond, Va.] at the beginning of his shift.”