March 24, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The best young carpenters in the city put their many expert talents to the test this week during the 47th Annual Graduating Apprentice Contest, Exhibition and Open House at the NYC District Council of Carpenters Labor Technical College on Hudson Street.
Fourth-year apprentices like 32-year-old Local 157 member Tyler Ellison from Queens took part in the demanding daylong competition, showcasing their superior skills in a variety of disciplines including interior systems, general carpentry, and millwright work.
"I feel great representing my local, Ellison told LaborPress. "I've worked hard to get here. For my whole four years, this is what I wanted to do. And now that I'm in my last year and I get to do it, I love it. It makes me love my job more."
Each year, the Labor College trains more than 1,000 apprentices, and as many as 11,000 journey level carpenters at its Hudson Street facilities in lower westside Manhattan.
This year's competition, as in year's past, featured exhibits in floor covering, cabinetmaking and the dock building/timber man trade.
"This is kind of like the passing of the torch," NYC District Council of Carpenters President Steve McInnis told Laborpress. "Our instructors are all accomplished tradesmen, foremen and superintendents who have passed on their skills to another generation of carpenters who now enjoy those skills. It's an exhibition to showcase those skills and then move onto the next phase of being a journeyman carpenter."
John Brunet, another fourth-year apprentice out of Local 157, started the second half of Wednesday's competition confident that he would take home the top prize.
"I'm just trying to finish strong and do the best I can," the 30-year-old from Newburgh, New York said. "If I finish like I started, I should be up there — at least in the top three. That's what I'm shooting for."
The advanced apprentice training that all carpenters receive allows them to command the kinds of middle-class wages that are continually under threat throughout other sectors of the economy.
"I haven't really been out of work my whole apprenticeship," Ellison said. "It's been very positive."
Anticipating a big pay raise that comes with "mechanic" status, Brunet also said that he has no complaints about his chosen career — and that he fully intended to ace this year's apprentice competition.
"It's a lot of pressure, but I think the hard work will pay off," Brunet said. "It would mean the world to me if I won today. I've worked hard, and put in a lot of time."
Ellison, who was eager to complete his walls so he could get to work ceilings – his specialty – said that successfully completing four years of apprentice training has already made him a winner.
"I'm here. I'm already winning," he said. "That's enough."