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Welcome to the Olympics for trade workers

Welcome to the Olympics for trade workers


LOS ANGELES (Circa) — Chainsaws, welding torches and sheet metal pipes. That's the equipment of choice at this olympic-style event.

The National Craft Championships brings the most talented trade worker apprentices in the nation together—this year it was in Long Beach, California—to compete for gold medals in their specific trade.

“It is a trade association that allows the best of the best competitors come and try their skills against each other, and be crowned as either the gold, the silver and the bronze medalist," said Greg Sizemore, Vice President of Health, Safety, Environment and Workforce Development at Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), the national association that sponsors the event.

We're talking 174 welders, plumbers, construction workers and electricians from around the country. The competition is a two-day event, consisting of a written test and a 6-hour practical test.

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"I think I did pretty good," said Alex Jones, an electrician from Florida. "I'm hoping I aced the written exam to help me out in the practice," he says, laughing.

"I feel confident about it and confident about what happened yesterday with the written test," said Nathan Ellenberger, an electrician from Pennsylvania.

Each trade has its own section of the convention center floor and the contestants are evaluated by judges who are experts in their field, and some, like Holley Thomas, are even former gold medalists.

"We always look for people that work safe, that keep good housekeeping in their area because safety is a key in our industry," said Thomas. "Past safety, we look for good quality work or good craftsmanship."

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Trade workers are in high demand. Carpentry, for instance, is expected to grow by 24% through 2022, according to the Department of Labor Statistics. But there aren't nearly enugh workers to fill those jobs, according to the ABC.

"We have a half a million jobs available to them to start today," says Michele Dougherty, president and CEO of the Northern California chapter of ABC. "Young people want to make a difference. What makes more of a difference than building the school of tomorrow? What makes more of a difference than changing the industry technology to make things greener so that we have a planet tomorrow. That’s what we’re trying to do, and young people, come help us. We need you.”

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