Meet the Seven Apprentices Competing at AFSA41
The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) is proud to host the 29th Annual National Apprentice Competition (NAC) this year at AFSA41: Convention, Exhibition, and Apprentice Competition in Las Vegas. 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. Winning will prove to be no easy feat, however, as this comprehensive two-phase testing approach pushes students to utilize all their fire sprinkler knowledge in both practical and logical ways.
AFSA’s apprentice competition, started in 1994 by the late Robert (Bob) L. McCullough, then chair of the Apprenticeship & Education Committee, was created to promote apprentice training and give recognition to the apprentices who are actively enrolled in the AFSA Apprenticeship program. Twenty-nine years later, the competition continues to attract more fire sprinkler apprentices from AFSA local chapters and member training programs from all corners of the United States, bringing them together annually for the fire sprinkler industry’s foremost showcase of training excellence.
APPRENTICESHIP—WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
Eligibility for apprentices to compete is based on 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 the competition consists of a two-hour multiple-choice, written exam provided by AFSA. The test is proctored online, making it accessible to contestants from all 50 states. The results of this test will determine who will go on to participate in the live competition at AFSA41.
The top seven apprentices in Phase I receive the following: a full registration to the convention and a second fill registration for their employer; an expense-paid trip to Las Vegas to compete; accommodation at the Bellagio Las Vegas; and a brand-new set of hand tools to use in Phase II. Phase II entails a more thorough written exam given at the convention, followed by a live practical in the exhibition hall at AFSA41 in Las Vegas. 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. The combined results of the Phase II written and hands-on tests determine the winner. A lot is on the line for these apprentice hopefuls as 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 AFSA41 APPRENTICE FINALISTS
This year the nation’s top seven apprentices will make their way to Las Vegas to try their luck at becoming the next AFSA NAC champion. Sprinkler Age caught up with each finalist for a quick Q&A to help you get to know the finalists before cheering them on during the live competition.
Tyler Amundson, Rapid Fire Protection, Rapid City, SD
Why did you choose to pursue a career in fire protection? Job security and competitive wages. Life safety will always be needed in the construction industry, and fire protection is generally one of the highest-paid trades on a construction site.
What’s the key ingredient to your success? There are many ingredients to success in this industry, but the one I’ve used the most is hard work. If you’re willing to put in the work, the reward is well worth it.
Andrew Callahan, A&D Fire Sprinklers, Spokane Valley, WA
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do? I enjoy the problem-solving and collaboration among the various trades. I found the plans rarely reflect what is actually occurring on the job site in new construction. Therefore, modifications and teamwork between the trades are required to make everything work correctly.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in fire protection? This career kind of fell into my lap. I was looking for something new, and a friend told me he was hiring and thought I would be a good fit. I quickly developed a passion for it and find it to be fulfilling.
Matthew Comp, Diamond Automatic Sprinklers, Inc., Mt. Holly Springs, PA
What does the future of the industry look like to you? I see a lot of growth in the industry. As the world evolves and safety keeps becoming a bigger priority, fire protection is necessary. I’m glad I’m in this field and can contribute to others’ safety.
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do? There are many things I enjoy about this trade. The level of experience, knowledge, and craftsmanship it takes to finish a project gives you a great feeling of accomplishment when completed. To me, the greatest thing is knowing the systems you install or inspect is there to save lives and property.
Jacob Hanson, Security Fire Sprinkler, Sauk Rapids, MN
Why did you choose to pursue a career in fire protection? It’s a trade that I believe will continue to grow and evolve.
What does the future of the industry look like to you? I think this industry will continue to evolve very fast. Sprinkler fitters everywhere will find ways to make our jobs more efficient, ways to build systems that need less maintenance/repair, and introduce new technologies to our field.
Daniel Kohler, Western Fire Protection, Poway, CA
What advice would you give someone thinking about entering the fire protection trade? The advice I would give is to just be humble so that you are teachable and work hard. Those two things have helped me improve myself in the trade.
What’s the key ingredient to your success? I would say the key ingredient is my eagerness. I am very eager to learn as much as I can about fire protection, whether in class or on the job. Every day I go to work prepared to be taught something new.
Andrew Lynch, Johnson Controls, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO
Why did you choose to pursue a career in fire protection? I have had many different jobs, ranging from retail to food service and even electronics repair. I found myself looking for a career that would allow me to grow and work with my hands, which has always been my preference and my skillset. I found that Johnson Controls was looking for apprentice sprinkler fitters and jumped at the opportunity to have a real career.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about entering the fire protection trade? Fire protection requires a lot of patience, precision, and thoughtfulness. Often you will find yourself having to make alterations to systems to make sure they will provide adequate protection. If you like solving problems and installing things with precision, fire protection could be a good trade for you.
Antonio Rosario, Titan Fire Protection, Vista, CA
What does the future of the industry look like to you? More and more pages added to NFPA. As technology advances, buildings are getting upgraded with modern tech. That’s always been a thing but seeing how rapidly we’re advancing is incredible. I’m not looking forward to the architectural ceiling designs, though.
What’s the key ingredient to your success? Keeping an open mind. I don’t discourage others’ ideas even when I think I may know the ins and outs. It’s always good to hear out a different approach.
RALLY TOGETHER AND CHEER THEM ON!
Which of these seven apprentice finalists will emerge on top at AFSA’s 29th annual competition? Watch the event live at ASFA41 on the afternoon of October 19 in the exhibition hall. The winner will be crowned at the “Music Through the Decades” apprentice awards party at the Bellagio pool that evening. It’s not too late to join your fellow industry professionals in Las Vegas for learning, networking, and fun! Registration for AFSA41 can be made onsite. For more information, visit firesprinkler.org/AFSA41.