|IBEW Members Dominate 'Elite Tradesman' Competition
Members from IBEW locals across the country participated in the first-ever IDEAL National Championship for electrical workers. And they won in almost every category.
"The knowledge I get from my apprenticeship is top notch," said Michael Fox, a fifth-year apprentice member of Minneapolis Local 292 and third-place winner in the individual category for apprentices. "That's why we dominated."
IDEAL Electrical, a tool and electrical supply company, sponsored the November competition. Contestants competed individually and as teams in either the professional or apprenticeship category.
Preliminary qualifying events took place from May through October at locations throughout the country, some at IBEW training centers. Over 23,000 people participated nationwide with the top 64 professional tradesmen and 64 apprentices making the trip to Disney's Coronado Springs in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the finals.
IBEW members won first and second place in the individual categories for professional competitors and second place in the professional group category. In the apprenticeship division, members won the top three slots for individuals and first place in the group category. They also won a total of $165,000, in addition to trophies and tools. Over $500,000 in cash and prizes was awarded overall, according to IDEAL.
"This proves how strong we are," said Patrick Flanery, a second-year apprentice member of Minneapolis Local 292 and member of the winning group. "It shows how good our curriculum is and that our instructors know how to teach our students."
Members estimated that at least half the contestants were IBEW.
"There was a lot of camaraderie and sportsmanship, and it was great to see so much IBEW strength," Fox said. "I feel like I made a lot of new friends."
"I met a lot of cool members from all over," said Joshua Collins, a fifth-year apprentice member of Watertown, N.Y., Local 910 and second-place individual winner. "It was nice to be able to have some fun and show off your skills at the same time."
Contestants participated in challenges that required speed and attention to detail in four categories: wire cutting, stripping, termination and testing through a multi-station speed test.
Corbin Rios, a second-year apprentice member of Wichita, Kan., Local 271 and first-place winner in the individual category, said he knew everything he needed for the competition because of his IBEW training.
"It's a true testament to the IBEW to have such a strong presence among the winners," said Rios, whose award came with $30,000. An additional $5,000 was awarded to his training center.
The money will go to bills and savings, as well as a local charity, he said. He also intends to give back to his local. Prior to the contest, Rios' son was in the hospital with a blood clot in his brain. Local 271 members pitched in to help with expenses and support. The day he left for the competition, he got news that his son was healthy again.
"It's been a blessing," Rios said. "It was an amazing experience to get so much help."
Elgin, Ill., Local 117 member Greg Anliker took the top professional prize, and its $75,000.
IDEAL had a livestream of the event on its Facebook page and on the day of the finals, 23,000 viewers tuned in, Anliker said.
Anliker was also on the team that won second place, along with fellow Local 117 member Will Barnett and Lisle, Ill., Local 701 member Clay Noga.
Atlanta Local 613 member Timothy Morris won second place in the professional division.
"It was very challenging," he said. "You had to be diverse in your skill set."
Morrison says he plans to invest his $25,000 winnings.
"The kids have go to college," he said.
The first-place group apprentice award, won by Minneapolis Local 292 apprentices Flanery, Bryan Olson and Ben Woodworth, came with $30,000 to be split amongst the team and another $5,000 for the school.
"The coolest part was being able to talk to other union members from different locals, and nonunion people too," Flanery said. "It's nice to be able to talk about your work with people who understand it."
IDEAL billed the event as the first annual competition, with plans to hold the second this year. The top five individual winners from the professional and apprentice categories and the top two teams from each of the categories are automatically invited back.
Morris and Rios said they believe more members will try out next time since the IBEW contestants did so well. And there may even be new members in the mix.
"The nonunion guys were asking about the IBEW, how to join, what our benefits are like," Collins said. "It definitely helped get the name out."