NEW YORK — North America’s top apprentices gathered once again at the Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich., to showcase their unique skills and knowledge of their craft at the 26th Annual International Apprenticeship Competition.

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 31 contestants across five major disciplines: plumbing, pipefitting, sprinkler fitting, welding and mechanical service technician. 

Each competitor was required to complete a series of tests in each field, demonstrating both their theoretical and practical skill set. Traditionally, one contestant from each of the UA’s six districts competes in each individual discipline. However, this year, the competition also welcomed a new contestant in the plumbing division, from Australia. 

The copper competition lasted a total of four hours and included nearly every type of joint possible when it comes to copper piping systems.

“It was a pretty complex project this year that required skill, knowledge and work by everyone who competed,” said Dale Powell, project manager and piping applications specialist for the Copper Development Association, CDA. “Although not all of the contestants were able to complete it within the time allotted, the caliber of these apprentices is truly remarkable.”

The five winners of this year’s “Best Copper Projects” were:

  • Plumber: Paul Giangrande, Local Union 1, New York City
  • Pipe Fitter: Nicholas Zabloski, Local Union 539, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Sprinkler Fitter: Eric Furniss, Local Union 692, Philadelphia
  • Service Technician: Michael West, Local Union 142, San Antonio, Texas
  • Welder: Nicholas Haney, Local Union 598, Pasco, Wash.

The International Apprenticeship Contest (IAC) was a four and a half-day competition where the 31 competitors plied their skills at a myriad of contest challenges. The competition was held in conjunction with the UA’s annual Instructor Training Program (ITP), a six-day classroom and hands-on training event which brought together more than 1,700 instructors of which 400+ were first-time attendees. 

As part of the ITP, CDA provided a class, twice a day, Course 207: Copper Piping Systems, Advanced Installations, Specialized Design and Safe Operation, which covers everything about copper and copper alloys, including: standards, soldering/brazing, dissimilar metal joining, alternate no-flame joining, joint analysis, corrosion causes and prevention for long-term performance. Leading the course was Harold Moret, project manager and piping applications specialist for the CDA, with the assistance of Dale Powell. Rick Wieting and Gary Shimmel of the UA also assisted with the program.

“Several attendees stated that they are starting to see an uptick in construction nationwide, as many tradesmen that were having trouble finding work are being called back to work,” Powell said. “It’s the light at the end of the tunnel for some.”

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The Copper Development Association is the information, education, market and technical development arm of the copper, brass and bronze industries in the USA. Learn more about the association at Follow the association on Twitter at