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Top Apprentices Compete in the 28th Annual UA Competition


NEW YORK — Thirty-two plumber, pipefitter, sprinkler fitter, mechanical service technicians and welder apprentices traveled from areas across North America and Australia to Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan to compete for the title of best in their specialty.

The competition, held by the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA), featured contestants from the UA's six North American districts, and two candidates representing the UA in Australia, who had previously won local, state, provincial and regional events. The competitors were required to complete a series of tests in each field, demonstrating both their theoretical and practical skill set.

The Copper Development Association (CDA) donated all copper materials for the competition and was responsible for designing and judging the copper component of the competition, which lasted a total of four hours for each discipline and included nearly every type of joining technique when it comes to copper piping systems.

 "This isn't like putting together IKEA furniture," said Andy Kireta Jr. vice president of CDA. "The apprentices must apply their on-the-job skills and knowledge they've gathered at their local union halls. There are no step-by-step instructions."

The five winners of this year's "Best Copper Projects" were:

  • Plumber: Michael Harris, Spokane, Wash.
  • Pipe Fitter: Jeremy Bergen, Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Sprinkler Fitter: Brian Price, Cleveland
  • Service Technician: Christian Valenti, West Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Welder: Andrew Schwan, Milwaukee

As part of the UA's annual Instructor Training Program (ITP), CDA taught Copper Piping Systems, Advanced Installations, Specialized Design and Safe Operation twice daily, over the five days. The course focused on copper techniques and applications, including: standards, soldering/brazing, dissimilar metal joining, alternate no-flame joining, joint analysis, corrosion causes and prevention for long-term performance.

"Over the years, the ITP has proven to be extremely important to these men and women for their continued development and expansion of the industry," said Dale Powell, a CDA project manager who has served as a UA course instructor and competition judge for many years. "This year, attendance was up, which is a positive sign that the construction economy is on the rise."

For additional information, visit thinkcopper.org.