Kids explore careers at craft championships

All parents want their children to be happy and successful in life. That vision usually includes pursuing a fulfilling career that pays a good salary. But we ask our kids to choose a career path with very little information.

They aren’t always exposed to a wide range of career choices, and rarely get any direct experience visiting workplaces, observing professionals at work, or trying their hands at jobs. They enter high school and find out that adults expect them to make decisions about education and career paths that can determine their direction in life. Talk about pressure!

There are ways parents and other supportive adults can help kids choose a career path that is right for them. One of the most important is career exploration. As children grow up and learn more about their own values and interests, they begin to figure out what careers appeal to them. But without being exposed to a wide variety, they won’t get a complete understanding of their many career options.

Career exploration can be a fun activity for parents and their kids. Reading about different careers; watching video, TV and film that depict career fields; and visiting workplaces are all good ways to help introduce your kids to various jobs. There are frequently special events and open houses held by community colleges and vocational training programs where the public can learn about career paths and the education needed to prepare for careers.

One such event is ABC San Diego’s annual Craft Championships, in which apprentices demonstrate their skills in a head-to-head competition. This year’s Craft Championships take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 6.

The ABC National Craft Championships started in 1987 as a way to recognize the high quality of craft training in construction careers. The competition emphasizes the important role craft skills training plays in construction, by evaluating contestants’ knowledge of their craft as well as their skill and talent. Seasoned apprentices and craft trainees from around the county compete to determine the top three in each trade.

The winners represent San Diego in national level competition. In 2014, all three representatives won silver medals: plumbing champion Richard Ederer of Santee with Sherwood Mechanical; sheet metal champion Kevin Sullivan of Alpine with Brian Cox Mechanical; and electrical champion Franklin Noble of Poway, representing Bergelectric.

On the Saturday of competition, apprentices and craft trainees are assigned their workspaces, and given the plans, tools and materials they need to build professional projects. Judges observe and inspect the work being performed. When time is called, the judges move in for the final inspection.

All of this takes place before a live audience of supporters and community members. It’s exciting to watch apprentices and trainees intently studying their plans, choosing their tools, and making sure their work is perfectly executed, all under deadline and all with safety protocols firmly in mind.

Learning about workplace environments, along with the skills, values and work ethic that make employees successful is the first step to career success. Then kids can begin developing the career tools they will need to find a job in their field, no matter what field he or she chooses.

By talking about careers with your children and preparing them for a career, it will focus them on education as a career pathway and motivate them to work harder in school now toward their goals.

Having a practical career plan helps keep students on track. A child’s dreams and interests can be brought down to earth by creating a specific blueprint that will help him or her build a career plan that is flexible and practical.

To learn more about the ABC Craft Championships, contact Tracey Barrett at

Smyth is chief financial officer of Sherwood Mechanical and chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors San Diego Apprenticeship Training Trust board of trustees.

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