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Who’s Who in Apprenticeship?

Meet the Seven Apprentice Competition Finalists for AFSA37!

The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) is proud to host its Silver Anniversary National Apprentice Competition (NAC) this year at AFSA37: Convention, Exhibition and Apprentice Competition to be held in Washington, DC. This competition allows apprentices representing member companies from across the country to compete in two phases of testing, written and hands-on, for the chance at national recognition and cash prizes!

Started in 1994 by the late Robert L. (Bob) McCullough, then chairman of the Apprenticeship & Education Committee, AFSA’s Annual National Apprentice Competition was created to promote apprentice training and give recognition to the apprentices who are actively enrolled in the AFSA Apprenticeship Program. Twenty-five years later, the competition continues to attract more fire sprinkler apprentices from AFSA local chapters and member training programs from all corners of United States bringing them together for the fire sprinkler industry’s foremost showcase of training excellence.

Becoming A Finalist Eligibility for apprentices to compete is based the following criteria:

  • their employer must be a member of AFSA in good standing,
  • the apprentice must actively be participating in the AFSA apprenticeship courses or enrolled in the NCCER/AFSA Fire Sprinkler Fitting Training Series, and
  • they must have at least one year of field experience with a minimum of six months combined hands-on experience in cutting, threading, and installing steel pipe and CPVC pipe.

The first phase of competition consists of a two-hour multiple-choice, written exam provided by AFSA. This year for the first time in the history of the competition, AFSA administered the Phase I exam through online testing. The initial qualifying exam took place online, instead of in a proctored location at a designated time as in years past. The addition of this new testing system provides a whole host of new benefits for those competing this year, including increased convenience of testing for those who participated. Apprentices only had to schedule a time during the testing window and be available to test online during their scheduled time. This change also allows, for the first time ever, apprentices from all 50 states to be eligible to compete in Phase I testing.

The top seven scoring apprentices in Phase I receive the following: a full registration to convention as well as a second full registration for their employer; an expense-paid trip to Washington, DC to compete; accommodations at the Gaylord National; and a brand new set of hand tools to use in Phase II.

Phase II entails a more thorough written exam, followed by a live practical in the exhibition hall at AFSA37 on October 3. The Phase II exam is based on all four levels of the AFSA/NCCER Contren Learning Series Sprinkler Fitting curriculum. Following the written exam is the live practical where finalists cut, thread, and install a steel and CPVC piping system with sprinkler heads and perform a water-pressure test. The mini fire sprinkler systems created are graded on accuracy, craftsmanship, and safety. Be sure and come cheer on your favorite apprentice!

The combined results of Phase II written and hands-on tests determine the year’s winner. The winner will be announced at the Newseum Awards party the night of October 3. Prizes are awarded based on finishing rank: first place takes home a $5,000 cash prize, second place receives $3,000, third place receives $2,000, and all other finalists receive $1,000.

Meet the Finalists This year the nation’s top seven apprentices will make their way to Washington, DC to try their luck at becoming the next AFSA National Apprentice Competition champion. Meet the finalists and learn about their experience in the fire sprinkler industry before they head to the nation’s capital with a Sprinkler Age Q&A.

Fernando Arias A & D Fire Sprinklers, Inc., Anaheim, California

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? I enjoy that I learn something new every day. I enjoy the fact that what I am doing in my line of work could save a person’s life.

What is the key ingredient to your success? The key ingredient to my success is to soak in everything that is taught to me. I also want to include my Uncle Sergio in this answer, because he has taught me a lot of what I know. Also I believe that teamwork has a lot to do with success.

Dylan Bonde Rapid Fire Protection, Inc., Casper, Wyoming

Why did you choose to pursue a career in fire protection? I quickly developed an appreciation for the fact that the systems I was installing could really make a difference and potentially save someone’s life.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? I like that every day is different. Working on different types of systems and changing locations keeps things interesting day-to-day.

Jareth “JD” Hilliard Fire Tech Systems, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana

What does the future of the industry look like to you? The future of the industry looks bright, so much so I need sun shades! Life safety isn’t something that will go out of style. Instead, the more people who learn about what a sprinkler system can do, the more demand there will be for them. I’m going to raise my family on the future of this industry!

What advice would you give to someone thinking about entering the fire protection trade? I would tell them to be prepared to work hard and plan on getting their hands dirty for sure. I would tell them to ask questions and listen to the foreman. Also, to make sure the company they are looking at is involved in the apprentice program so that they are given every opportunity to learn and grow in this field.

Federico Martinez, Jr. Western Fire Protection, Inc., Poway, California

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? Some people see their jobs as work. I am not one of those people. I have the opportunity to make a difference, while having the privilege of completing my responsibilities with people I enjoy being around.

What is the key ingredient to your success? The key ingredient to my success is the support of my family and friends. My family is always there to support me emotionally and I have my friends and superiors who are there to support me while on job sites.

Tyler Ray Patch Piper Fire Protection, Clearwater, Florida

What does the future of the industry look like to you? The future of the fire protection industry is limitless. As technology and engineering rapidly progress, so too does the need to protect it. The industry is already so vast, with all the different types of sprinkler systems out there: wet, dry, preaction, deluge, etc. Then you have special protections. All that to say this industry will do nothing but grow!

What advice would you give to someone thinking about entering the fire protection trade? The best advice I could give someone would be to work hard and take pride in your work. The fire protection trade is full of opportunities and is going to be around for a long time. It is a strong career that will enable you to achieve your goals in life.

Jason Swartz Elite Fire Protection, Helena, Montana

What is the key ingredient to your success? I would say my success is due to having great teachers. Along with that, I make sure to take pride in my work and am always wanting to learn all that I can!

Why did you choose to pursue a career in fire protection? I chose a career in fire protection because it is a very rewarding field. There is so much room for upward movement and many different avenues to explore and pursue.

Bryan J. Teddick HTH Automatic Sprinkler, LLC., Goshen, Connecticut

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? The best thing about my job is the sense of pride from a job well done, knowing that your work will save lives if the need arises.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in fire protection? I’ve had an interest in fire protection since I joined my local fire department at 16. I got to know one of the members there who had been a fitter for over 30 years. After that, I was convinced to pursue a career in the trade!

Watch in Washington Who do you think will emerge as the best-of-the-best at AFSA’s 25th Annual National Apprentice Competition? Watch live at AFSA37 October 3 from 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm in the exhibit hall. The winner will be announced at the Newseum Awards party beginning at 7:00 pm on October 3. AFSA wishes all of the amazing finalists good luck in the competition! For more information, visit firesprinkler.org/AFSA37.

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