L-73’s Matteau wins Canadian apprentice contest

Local 73’s Jason Matteau accepts the first-place trophy from Industry Award of Excellence winner Fabian Tompkins, l., with Canadian National Apprentice Coordinator Grant Jacobs at right.

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Title is first for Halifax, Nova Scotia, lodge

FOR THE FIRST time in the 16-year history of the Canadian Apprenticeship Competition, a candidate from Local 73 (Halifax, Nova Scotia) has won first place. Jason Matteau, 33, took the top spot in a field of seven graduate apprentices from across Canada. The announcement came during the June 18 awards banquet held in Oakville, Ontario, near Local 128 (Toronto). “Local 73 — we got it!” exclaimed a jubilant Matteau, as he accepted the trophy.

The event also scored another first. It was the first time a local lodge (Local 128) has conducted the competition at its own facilities. All other contests have been held at colleges where Boilermaker apprentices receive their technical training and Boilermaker instructors serve on staff.

Other contestants competing in the event were graduate apprentices Jean Blanchard, Local 271 (Montreal, Quebec); Greg Cameron, Local 128; Geoffrey Moore, Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta); Garrett Parthenay, Local 555 (Winnipeg, Manitoba); Dan Praught, Local 359 (Vancouver, British Columbia); and Kenneth Simms, Local 203 (St. John’s, Newfoundland).

Industry award goes to Tompkins

THE RICK ALBRIGHT-Sandy MacDonald Industry Award of Excellence, which recognizes contributions to apprentices and the Boilermaker industry, went to Fabian Tompkins. A retired Local 128 member with 44 years of service, Tompkins began his career in 1966 as a helper sweeping floors and went on to earn his welding tickets and build tanks. He later served as a general superintendent, and for the last 10 years has been employed with union contractor Black & McDonald. Local 128 BM-ST Jim Watson made the award presentation. Tompkins is deeply involved with the apprentice resource committee for the Eastern Canada Tripartite. His son and daughter, as well as a nephew, are all members of Local 128.

Tompkins recalled the days before Canadian locals had formal apprenticeship programs: “There was nothing wrong with the way we did things at the time, but today is different. We’re moving forward. Technology has changed. It takes a lot of training to get our members prepared to do the jobs at hand.” He said the annual apprentice competition is “one hell of a challenge,” and that all contestants should consider themselves winners for the honor of being selected by their locals to compete.

Western Canada IVP Joe Maloney spoke at the banquet on behalf of Intl. Pres. Newton B. Jones and the entire International Executive Council. (Eastern Canada IVP Ed Power was unable to attend the banquet due to official duties out of the country.) Maloney echoed Tompkins’ comments to the contestants, telling them, “You should be very proud of your accomplishments to make it here tonight.” He spoke of the tremendous opportunities awaiting the contestants, urging them to “always remember that your careers started right here, with the apprenticeship program. Be the best you can be.”

Matteau describes challenges

MATTEAU, WHO RESIDES with his wife and 9-year-old son in the New Brunswick village of Petit-Rocher, said the first challenge he faced when informed that he had been asked to represent Local 73 was finding time to prepare.

“I was working night shift for Irving Oil,” he said. I’ve been there for two years, as a welder at an LNG (liquefied natural gas plant).”

Another concern, he noted, was that Local 73 had sent well-qualified apprentice graduates to the competition in years past, “and they were good guys and didn’t win. Believe me, the pressure was there! I guarantee that I worked very hard [for the first-place finish].”

Matteau credited his father, Normand, a retired member of Local 73 and 35-year Boilermaker, for his influence in “bringing me to the trade. “I also want to thank especially my teacher, Marcel Losier [instructor, New Brunswick College] and my training coordinator, Eugene LeBlanc.”

Local 128 gets kudos for facility, hard work

CONTESTANTS AT THE competition found Local 128’s new training facility much to their liking. “Everything you needed was there — and all the tools were new,” said Matteau. “And they did just a great job with the preparation.”

Canadian National Training Coordinator Grant Jacobs agreed. “The staff of Local 128 and Ed Hoffmann, the instructor at Humber College, were exceptional this year,” he said. Jacobs recalled that Jim Tinney, the former Local 128 business manager and secretary-treasurer, approached him right after the new hall and training center opened to request that the lodge be considered as a host site. “I’m proud to say that with the commitment of Local 128 Business Manager Jim Watson, that we pulled it off.”

Local 128’s hall and 6,000-sq.-ft. training center were completed in 2007. Much of the facility has been equipped with advanced tools and systems courtesy of a $1.4 million grant from the Canadian Federal and Ontario Provincial governments.

Competition measures knowledge, practical skills

EACH YEAR, THE apprentice competition tests journeyman tradecraft. The contest begins with a six-hour written exam that includes about 300 multiple-choice questions drawn from the apprentice training curriculum, the Boilermaker Constitution, and local lodge bylaws. Curriculum-related content includes such topics as cutting and welding; hand and power tools; construction materials; metallurgy; blueprint reading; layout and fitting; math; rigging; and boilers, heat exchangers, furnaces, and tanks.

During the three days following the written exam, contestants compete in practical projects designed to test the application of their knowledge and skills, with a focus on welding and cutting, layout and fitting, tube rolling, and rigging.

This year’s welding and cutting test required the contestants to weld two sets of coupons (small steel plates) — one in the flat position, the other in the horizontal position. Candidates were required to a cut double bevel in each set. The contestants also were required to cut a lifting lug from steel plate.

In the waterwall exercise, the apprentices cut and removed a bad section of tube, prepared the wall stub ends, and prepared and installed a 14-in. replacement pup. (A pup is a short piece of tube that is beveled on both ends to fit into the tube that has been cut.) Specifications called for a 1/8-in. gap at the top of the pup and a 3/32-in. gap at the bottom.

The hopper test challenged contestants to build a small hopper, measuring 3'8" x 2'10" x 1'10", from 3/16-in. plate steel. The design included 45-degree flanges. Hopper components had to be laid out on a 4 x 8 sheet of 3/16-in. plate steel, cut, and welded together. Material waste and completion time were factored into the grading.

The rigging exercise required contestants to lift a 10,000-lb. heat exchanger to the first level of the rigging platform and drift the load for placement onto the structure. The test required using two tuggers and rigging blocks and snatch blocks. Contestants acted as the lead rigger. They gave directions to their “crew” (including volunteer apprentices from Local 128 and the lodge’s health and safety instructor, Blair Allin), planned and set up the lift, inspected the condition of all rigging tools and equipment, set up a safe work perimeter, and calculated lift loads and sling angles.

In all four practical tests, judges graded for safety performance as well as completion of the project specifications.

This year’s test coordinators were Ed Hoffmann, Humber College, and Ed Frerotte, Local 128.

Judges from the technical colleges included Ken Bachand, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology; Jim Beauchamp, Red River College, Winnipeg; and Marcel Losier, New Brunswick Community College.

Union judges included Mike Bayens, L-146; Al Bennett, Local 359; Darrell Bray, Local 555; Bill Healey, Local 203; and Ted Stark, Local 555.

Employer judges included Styve Dumouchel, Lorneville Mechanical; Kim Jones, B&W; Richard Leblanc, Kamtech Services; and Ron Takacs, Alstom Canada.

Alternate judges were Marty Albright of Alstom Canada and Dave Ralph of Local 146.