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Carpenters’ Best Vie for ‘Golden Hammer’

March 29, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY – Rachel Aurich’s husband works as a carpenter and was one of the finalists selected to participate in an annual apprenticeship contest on Wednesday at the NYC District Council of Carpenters. As her husband hammered away building a wishing well, Ms. Aurich anxiously eyed the judges inspecting his work.

“He told me to wait in the lunch room, but I’ve been peeking in to see how he’s doing. I can see the intensity on his face because he’s passionate about building things. I’m very proud of him,” said Aurich. (Read More/Watch Video)

About 30 carpenter apprentices were busy building interior systems, cabinets and assembling machines from pre-fabricated parts during the 44th Graduating Apprenticeship Contest at the Carpenters’ Labor Technical College

According to Elly Spicer, director of the technical college, the annual competition is an opportunity for apprentices to showcase the skills they’ve learned after four-years as an apprentice. 

“The contest winner does very well. The winner will go home with an assortment of tools donated by our sponsors and supporters. But nobody comes to an event like this and leaves empty-handed,” said Spicer.

The toolbox of goodies the winner takes all includes hammer drills, table saws and sliding compound miter saws from leading manufactures, and contest sponsors, DeWalt and Bosch.

The NYC District of Carpenters represents carpenters who work in a variety of environments. The contestants included apprentices being trained as millwrights, dock builders, floor coverers, cabinetmakers and residential carpenters.

Building interior systems projects represents the lion’s share of the union’s work. Spicer said that three-fifths of the city’s unionized carpenters’ hours stem from building corporate offices. 

Angelo Girardi, a carpenter for over four years, was competing for the first time by building a mockup of a typical corporate office that required hanging a door and installing a windowpane.

He didn’t have time to talk because he had to complete the mockup by 3:00 pm to qualify for the winning prizes.

When asked what he likes about carpentry, said, after reviewing the project’s blueprints, “It’s in my blood.”

Students from high schools throughout the city were invited to attend the event to learn if they would want to follow in the footsteps of the apprentices.

Trayvon Muriel, a student at Samuel Gompers High School in the Bronx, wants to pursue a carpentry career because he’s already learned essential skills by working with his stepfather.

“I like working with my hands, using machines to build stuff. I feel like I’m doing something with my life when I’m building or installing,” said Muriel.

Spicer noted that the technical college’s instructors rate the apprentices and determine the best work by judging them on different variables.

“The judges use a score sheet to judge the apprentices on good housekeeping and how safely they work, as well as how skillful they are in framing, layout, door installation and finish work,” Spicer said.

Elizabeth Sgroi, a contest judge who entered carpentry via training offered by Nontraditional Employment for Women, a workforce development program, expects apprentices to exhibit an understanding of blueprints and the project’s basic layout as prerequisite for consideration of contest winner.

She was judging eight apprentices building an interior systems project who exhibited great skill before breaking for lunch.

When asked whether she had already decided whom she’d vote for as winner out of eight apprentices, said she had narrowed her decision down to two.

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