L-85’s Avery wins national apprentice competition

Matthew Avery of L-85 (Toledo, Ohio) raises his first-place trophy during the 2008 National Outstanding Apprenticeship Award banquet held in Kansas

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L-647’s Zeman takes second place

MATTHEW AVERY, a fourth-generation Boilermaker from Local 85 (Toledo, Ohio), placed first in the 21st annual Boilermakers National Outstanding Apprenticeship Competition Sept. 21-25. Teammate Richard Zeman, Local 647 (Minneapolis), took second. The pair also won the team award, representing the Great Lakes Area.

Results of the four-day competition, held at the Boilermakers National Training Center in Kansas City, Kan., were announced at an awards banquet Sept. 25 at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Other graduate apprentices competing this year were, from the Western States, Jeremy Rosas, Local 242 (Spokane, Wash.), and Brian Van Dam, Local 182 (Salt Lake City); from the Southeast Area, William Dietsch, Local 40 (Elizabethtown, Ky.), and Christopher Carpenter, Local 667 (Charleston, W.Va.); and from the Northeast Area, Donald Goodwin Jr., Local 154 (Pittsburgh) and John Cawley, Local 13 (Philadelphia).

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 2008 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 waterwall 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.

“One of the inspectors told me he was impressed by the exceptional quality of these welds,” said Standish. “And he was surprised to learn they were made by graduate apprentices. I have noticed in recent years that the quality of welds during our competition has become consistently high. I take my hat off to all the Boilermaker instructors around the country who are teaching these apprentices superb welding skills.”

Judges for the 2008 competition were, from the Great Lakes Area, Robert Schwartz, Assistant Business Manager for Local 1 (Chicago), and Joe Fisher of Enerfab Inc.; from the Northeast Area, Bob Pandori, Local 5, Zone 197 (New York), and Larry Ross of NAES Power Contractors; from the Southeast Area, International Rep Stephen Speed, and Randall James of M & D Power Constructors; from the Western States, Douglas Farnes, retired Boilermaker from Local 11 (Helena, Mont.), and Kenneth Null of Babcock & Wilcox Construction Co. Inc.; and from the National Transient Division, International Rep Ronny Vanscoy and George Deem of Fisher Tank Co.

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

Banquet honors contestants

THE RESULTS OF the 2008 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.

“These apprentice graduates are our future,” said Pat Smith, National Coordinator for the Boilermakers National Apprenticeship Program (BNAP). “They conducted themselves at a professional level this week, and I’m very proud of them.

“One of the contractors at the competition told me he would be willing to hire every one of these apprentices. He said, ‘They can go to work for me tomorrow and they won’t be in the field very long. They will [soon] be in management and supervision.’“

This year’s ceremonies included a change in format — there was no National Recognition Award. Intl. Vice President Sean Murphy, Chairman of the BNAP Board of Trustees, said, “There are just so many people who support the apprenticeship program, who offer their knowledge and expertise, their personal time, and their commitment. It has become difficult to single out one or two people each year without omitting others who are equally deserving. Also, International President Jones and I feel the focus really needs to stay on the contestants. Our purpose is to honor them and their achievements.”

“I didn’t think I had a chance.”

FOR 27-YEAR-OLD Matthew Avery, winning the national apprentice competition was totally unexpected. “I didn’t think I had a chance,” he said, noting that in the Great Lakes Area competition, which qualified him for the nationals, he placed second behind Richard Zeman, his partner at the nationals.

Added to the stress of competition was the fact that Avery and his wife, Jennifer, who live in Bowling Green, Ohio, were expecting the birth of their second child in the days leading up to the national event. “We were worried she wouldn’t come in time,” he said. Daughter Mae Lynn arrived Sept. 14, exactly one week before the competition.

Avery said he is looking forward to following in the footsteps of other Boilermaker family members. His father, Buck, is a superintendent for URS Washington Group in Monroe, Mich. His grandfather, Charles, worked as a Boilermaker, and his great-grandfather, Ernie, was a Boilermaker at the Toledo, Ohio, shipyards.

Avery said one thing he learned at the national competition is just how similar Boilermakers are, no matter what part of the country they are from. “We’re all roughnecks who like to get the job done — and do it right.”