Apprenticeship grads advance into promising futures

Some 50 proud apprentices and craft trainees celebrated the culmination of many years of hard work, graduating with their apprenticeship and trainee certificates this month from the Associated Builders and Contractors Apprenticeship Training program in San Diego, as proud family and friends looked on.

Graduates have successfully completed a state and federally approved apprenticeship program or craft training program, mastering skills to work as professionals in crafts such as plumbing and pipefitting, electrical, electronic systems technician and sheet metal.

Their course of study includes four to five years of classroom and hands-on lab training, plus thousands of on-the-job hours of practical field experience with San Diego area contractors. All graduates earned college credits through the San Diego Community College District that can be applied toward an associate of science degree.

The requirements of the program are rigorous for a reason. Consider the level of trust put into today’s highly skilled craftspeople to safely and successfully build our homes, workplaces, schools and leisure facilities.

The graduates not only must know the technical skills, but also be able to read and follow complex directions and codes, perform high-level calculations, be able to use high-tech tools and computers on the job, and work together in large teams.

Any mistakes on their part put people at risk from building hazards that could seriously injure or even kill someone.

Not everyone who starts our program can finish it. It is far better in our opinion as educators and employers to set our standards high and weed out people who simply aren’t suited for this demanding work now. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.

Still, stereotypes persist that apprenticeship programs are for people who can’t make it in college; it’s a “fallback” plan. This frustrates me, because our program is in many ways far more difficult than a standard four-year college degree program.

Every year, we have students who exceed expectations. Five students graduated with perfect attendance in their four years of classroom training. Here’s how serious they are about the training: last year, one graduate’s wife said she scheduled the cesarean section birth of their child around the apprenticeship-training schedule. We would have excused that absence!

The five students are electrical apprentices Brian T. Dellosa with Laser Electric, Jesus E. Gomez with Bergelectric, Steven A. Hopwood with Rowan Electric, Miguel K. Lanswick with Helfers Electric, and plumbing apprentice Bradley S. Meyer with Countywide Mechanical.

Another five apprentices were named Academic Achievement Graduates. All graduated with straight-A averages. They are electrical apprentices Bryan M. Metros, Reina M. Montoya and Kevin Sugimoto, all employed by Bergelectric; electrical trainee Daniel R. Siordia with Rowan Electric; and plumbing apprentice Tyler J. Vesterby with Advanced Plumbing.

The 2015 Outstanding Graduates of the Year are David Doyle, employed by Bergelectric, Andre Sannmann, employed by Laser Electric, and Aaron Travis, employed by Rowan Electric. These three earned straight-A averages and no absences. Their employers have rock solid confidence in them to be at work and performing their best every day. Would they be able to say the same thing with as much confidence about the average college graduate coming in the door with their degree?

The Class of 2019 is already hard at work this summer, starting their on-the-job training in some cases just days after graduating from high school, including our three scholarship recipients, Miguel Camacho from Escondido High School, and Romeo Ramos and Angel Samora from North County Trade Tech High School.

Camacho said the opportunity to graduate from the Apprenticeship Training Academy program with a career and no college debt was very important to him. His plans also include using his skills and earnings to buy his first home and then additional properties to refurbish in the future. What is your high school graduate doing this summer?

Our graduates are well prepared for the workplace when they graduate. During their years of apprenticeship training, they work a demanding full-time job for their employers. Then they attend classes and complete lab work two nights a week. Many have families and other obligations as well. Without the family support, it would be even tougher to finish this program.

Graduation is a celebration for our students, but it is also an opportunity for them to thank their family and friends who saw them through it all.

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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