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Apprentices strut stuff at annual trade competition

The Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Committee of Philadelphia and Vicinity hosted its annual competition in the Northeast.

Vincent Lawson won in the floor-layer category.
Vincent Lawson won in the floor-layer category.Read more

SAWS SAWED. Drills drilled. Sweat poured.

An annual competition in the Northeast yesterday challenged area construction apprentices who will graduate from the Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Committee of Philadelphia and Vicinity's four-year program this month to think - and work - on their feet.

The 23 contestants, chosen based on their success on written tests, represented different areas of training offered at the facility - and made up the categories of the competition, including general carpenters, interior-systems carpenters, floor layers, millwrights and mill/cabinetmakers.

At 8 a.m., each contestant donned a dark-blue collared shirt and received a task - a blueprint and materials - and a deadline: 5 p.m.

"I don't think they expect everyone to finish. They just want to see how good it is," said second-year apprentice Dan Antonelli as he watched the interior-systems workers build structures with metal beams and drywall.

Kevin Waltz, 29, a contest judge who won the interior-systems competition in 2012, said getting the job done with scores of people watching is no easy feat.

Apprentices generally spend one day a week in the classroom learning safety, math and blueprint skills and studying their specialties, said instructor Tom Millio. Remaining days are spent on the job.

At the training facility on Decatur Road near Red Lion, old photos and machinery parts are on display, illustrating the changing faces and technologies steering the industry.

"We don't just work with wood anymore," Millio said.

A small corner of a hallway in the facility stands as physical proof of the apprentices' work.

"This kind of wraps up everything," he said, pointing out the floor, framing, wall and door frame - all installed by apprentices over the years.

For some, yesterday's challenge meant taking on projects that didn't necessarily require their main skill sets.

Kevin Fitzgerald, of Northern Liberties, who said he's primarily worked with drapery and electronic-curtain devices, competed in the challenge as a floor layer - a job he's learned at the training facility.

The winning apprentices, who were awarded a toolbox, a plaque and a $500 check, were: Vincent Lawson, Joseph Augustine, Kenneth Amorosi, Curtis Simpson and Joseph Farrant.