San Diego Transcript Column: Apprentices Demonstrate Winning Attitude

This column by Walter Fritz, CEO of Nuera Group and board chairman of Associated Builders and Contractors, San Diego, first appeared in the San Diego Transcript on December 22, 2017.

So much about success in today’s workforce is about teamwork, and so much about teamwork is about attitude. Right now, I’m sure you can name a co-worker (or if you’re lucky, several) who give every day on the job their best. They are willing to stay late to meet an important deadline. They step up to help work out solutions to tricky problems, even when it’s “not their department.” You know without a doubt they will do whatever it takes to get the job done – except compromising on quality or safety.

Skills can be acquired with good training and practice. When I am hiring someone to work for me at Nuera Construction LP, it’s vital our construction professionals have the skills to perform their jobs. But it is the so-called soft skills like teamwork, problem solving, and positive attitude that gets someone hired over their competition every time.

Apprentices who compete in the annual Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego Craft Championship competition face a significant test of skills, but an even more significant test of their commitment to their training and their profession. Entering the competition over and above your full-time job and your after-hours courses and lab work demonstrates the drive to test yourself, learn and improve. Who wouldn’t want this kind of employee working for his or her company?

The San Diego Craft Championship competition took place at the ABC Apprenticeship Training Academy in Poway earlier this month. Third and fourth year apprentices who have first successfully completed hundreds of hours of classroom training and thousands of hours of practical field experience are eligible to compete. A combination of text scores and field competition are combined to determine the winner.
In the field portion of the competition, apprentices work under time limits to complete a project as close to the specifications provided as possible. They may only use materials provided. Professional experts in each craft judge the entries. Many are former competitors, and they are tough. The competitors are on full display in front of an audience of several hundred people: family, friends, co-workers and classmates.

It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s really nothing compared to the pressure created by the expectations on them every day on the job. Consider that these electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, sheet metal and HVAC workers are part of the teams building our homes, offices, schools, hospitals, bridges, and vital infrastructure. They must work within strict building schedules – because time is money to a client. They must work with the materials provided – both to conserve costs and be good stewards of the environment by avoiding wasteful practices.

Twenty-one apprentices in three craft areas – electrical, plumbing and sheet metal – decided to take on this challenge. Daniel Fortini of Ramona won in the Sheet Metal category for 2017 after placinng second last year. He works for Alpha Mechanical. Alberto Ceballos of Poway placed second. He is employed by WH Robbins. In the Plumbing competition, Brad Benedict of Vista won first place. He works for R&M Plumbing Contractors. Gabriel Avila Cuenca came in second. He lives in Escondido and works for Davis Mechanical.

The winner of the 2017 Electrical competition is Joshua Stuart of San Marcos. It is the second straight win for his employer, Bergelectric. Placing second Kevin Mizicko of Western Pump. He lives in Spring Valley.

For the first time, ABC will send six individuals to represent San Diego at the ABC National Craft Championship competition in Long Beach, California next March, facing a tougher test against other regional winners from across the United States. The San Diego ABC Apprenticeship Program has a long tradition of national winners having won 19 medals in the last 14 years. No pressure, guys.

The ABC National Craft Championships event 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 country compete toe-to-toe to determine the top three craftpersons in each trade.

They’ve got to get past all of their peers who want this honor just as much as they do. It all comes down to whoever is willing to put in the hard work it takes, and this is what makes our apprentices winners in this competition and on the job for their employees and their community every day,

Walter Fritz is President and CEO of Nuera Group LP, and chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors San Diego board of directors. For more information visit



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