If you had 800 eyes closely watching you ‘do what you do’ for 6 hours, how would you perform?
This was National Craft Championship Chairman Greg Sizemore’s way of describing the ABC hosted National Craft Championship’s intensity, rigor and difficulty. All in all, this competition is the triathlon for craft professionals. Trainees from across the United States travel to compete in electrical, carpentry, HVAC, plumbing and more! More than 160 individuals competed in 13 different crafts at this year’s competition in Birmingham, Alabama. The two-day challenge begins with a written exam on the first day accounting for 25 percent of their overall score, and then a 6-hour competency-based practical performance test on the second day accounting for 75 percent of their overall score.
“This is the Super Bowl of the craft training world,” Sizemore said. “Contractors and training programs send competitors they absolutely believe can win and hold their own.”
Two Greater Houston locals walked away with medals at the 2014 National Craft Championship. Houston Hall, with Zachry Industrial, won a silver medal in structural welding; and Ross Capps, with JVIC, a subsidiary of Zachry Industrial, was awarded the gold medal in pipefitting. Both of these young men put in numerous hours of studying and training prior to the event.
“Houston trained after work 2 days a week in our shop for multiple months,” Sizemore said. “And Ross put in a lot of time and effort training while on the job.”
On the day of the competition, contestants entered a lockdown room for their written examination. After everyone submitted their tests, all participants were hustled down to the floor where they would be competing the following day.
“At 8 a.m. on the second day, they compete side by side against competitors in their craft,” Sizemore said.
The craft professionals compete directly next to their fellow competitors with a crowd and judges watching their every move for 6 hours. Hall and Capps competed in front of friends and family as well as the nearly hundreds in the audience. Sizemore described the test’s intensity by reiterating that these trainees are the best in their class and must be able to handle the pressure.
And the benefits of winning a competition like this are endless for these trainees.
“First and foremost, there is a sense of pride in accomplishment. They know they are one of the best of the best in the industry [they’ve] chosen. There has to be excitement,” Sizemore explains.
The companies and training programs that send these contestants also receive some validation in their training program. The National Craft Championships, after all, is meant to display the credibility and rigor of merit-shop training. Lastly, the competitors get to display a high level of competency in front of their peers. When a difficult project arises in the field, leaders can depend on these winners to handle the difficulty and know they can perform under pressure.
But no one can leave out that there is also monetary incentive to medaling at the National Craft Championship. First place wins $750, second wins $500, and third wins $350.
And it all paid off at the podium for Hall and Capps. As chairman of the National Craft Championship, Sizemore got the opportunity to medal the local winners. He said that he couldn’t speak to their emotions, but they had a big smile on their face ‘that you wouldn’t be able to wipe off with an Emory cloth’.
“They have that steel hanging around their neck,” Sizemore began, “and the emotion those winners feel simply cannot be put into words.”