Region 3 Apprentice Contest challenges sheet metal students on job site skills

Apprentices and instructors from the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers training centers in the Southeast gathered March 22-23 in Jacksonville, Florida, to test the skills of 25 second-, third- and fourth-year apprentices during the annual Region 3 Apprentice Contest.

Training centers participating in the contest included SMART Local 85 in Atlanta; Local 435 in Jacksonville, Florida; Local 5 in Knoxville, Tennessee; Local 441 in Mobile, Alabama; Local 177 in Nashville, Tennessee; Local 15 in Tampa, Florida; Local 4 in Memphis, Tennessee; Local 399 in North Charleston, South Carolina; and Local 32 in Miami.

Apprentices competed in shop, reading plans and specifications (specs), written exam and hand sketch categories specific to their program year. While second- and third-year students completed a level-specific heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) project, the fourth-year students completed an industrial shop project that included welding.

The reading plans and specs category utilized California’s Junction City Project, featured in the digital curriculum released last year by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education and curriculum arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry. This test was one of the new additions to the contest. Questions from the Fire/Smoke Damper Technician curriculum were also included in the written exam. Both were completed on iPads.

“We decided we needed to include the Fire/Smoke Damper Technician curriculum in the core portion of the test, and we needed to include fire life safety,” said Ruben Velasquez, training coordinator at Local 435, which hosted this year’s event. “It’s a big part of what everyone is doing at their home locals.”

Six months prior, coordinators from participating locals met to discuss what will be a part of the contest, based on what apprentices see on job sites in their respective areas and how to better challenge them.

“We are trying to meet the needs of the contractors when it comes to training apprentices,” Velasquez said. “For our particular training program, we’re doing our apprentices a disservice if we’re not training them in skills they’re using on the job site.”

First place winners were Jordan Dillon, second year, Local 399; Jay Smoot, third year, Local 4; and Marcus Kahkonen, fourth year, Local 85.

In second place was Logan Wehner, second year, Local 5; Walter King, third year, Local 441; and Michael Sample, fourth year, Local 441. Third place winners included Christian Stout, second year, Local 435; Chunlam Chiu, third year, Local 85; and Andrew Cataline Jr., fourth year, Local 5. Trey Downing, a third-year apprentice from Local 177, won the Screw-Off Competition, a fun addition in which apprentices compete in a bracket-style format and have one minute to put as many screws as possible into a piece of ductwork.

For more information about the ITI, visit the website at

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