Graduates of ABC of Wisconsin's apprenticeship program pose for a photo after being recognized during the 2018 Apprenticeship Graduation Banquet on Friday, May 11, at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

WISCONSIN DELLS, WI – Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin celebrated the accomplishments of 303 professional craft workers during the 2018 Apprenticeship Graduation Banquet on Friday, May 11, at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

Ninety-six apprentices were on hand to be recognized for completing their apprenticeships before a record crowd of more than 500 apprentices, family members and friends. ABC of Wisconsin also recognized three individuals as the 2018 Craft Professional, Instructor and Apprentice of the Year, respectively. 

“ABC of Wisconsin is proud to recognize the next generation of craft professionals,” said John Mielke, president of ABC of Wisconsin. “These graduates are the future of our industry, and the future is looking very bright.” 

The graduating apprentices participated in ABC’s carpentry; concrete finishing; construction craft laborer; electrical; heavy equipment operator; heating, ventilating and air conditioning; plumbing; roofing; sprinkler fitting; and steamfitting programs. 

Adam Braun, a master electrician for K-W Electric in Plymouth, gives the keynote address during Friday's Apprenticeship Graduation Banquet.

Friday’s keynote speaker was Adam Braun, a master electrician for K-W Electric in Plymouth. Braun attended Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton and was recognized by ABC of Wisconsin as the 2017 Apprentice of the Year. He received his master license just before turning 25 years old. 

Braun encouraged this year’s graduates to serve as role models and teachers for the next generation of apprentices. 

“There are currently over 1,300 active apprentices in ABC, and while 303 of you will be moving on here shortly and graduating, there are 1,000 yet to finish their apprenticeship,” Braun said. “And there’s a good chance these apprentices will be learning from you. But as much as the younger generation of apprentices needs you to teach them, we, the construction industry, need them just as much.” 

Braun said the need for skilled workers continues to grow. By the year 2020, the Wisconsin construction industry is projected to grow more than 10 percent, or about 11,0000-12,000 workers, he said. 

“It’s going to take everyone in the construction industry to make that happen,” Braun said. “And I can tell you right now, you are a major influence in this. As you assume lead roles after your apprenticeship, the influence you have in the younger generation is so important.”

Todd Wodach of K-W Electric, Inc., was recognized as the 2018 Craft Professional of the Year, an award presented to someone who has trained ABC of Wisconsin apprentices for at least five years and demonstrated a high degree of professional in training apprentices on the job.

“He is the true meaning of a craftsman,” according to Wodach’s nomination. “The amount of time it takes to do his job with pride and craftsmanship doesn’t worry him as long as it’s done correctly.” 

Roofing instructor Collin Maas was recognized as the 2018 Instructor of the Year. The award is given to an individual who has taught ABC of Wisconsin apprentices for at least three years and is highly regarded by apprentices and employers. The honoree must demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and teach within the guidelines of the program. 

Maas was described in his nomination as being dedicated, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. 

“He is one of the most genuine and kind individuals you will meet,” according to Maas’ nomination. “His enthusiasm is contagious, and he has the rare ability to make virtually any topic compelling to his students.” 

Ervin Westphal of K-W Electric, Inc., a student of Moraine Park Technical College, was named the 2018 Apprentice of the Year. Westphal was selected from a pool of four candidates, which included Matthias Watts of K-W Electric, Inc.; Leonard Rausch of Giraffe Electric II, Inc.; and Matthew Timler of Fox Valley Technical College. Each nominee was interviewed by a critiquing panel as part of the selection process. 

The Apprentice of the Year award goes to an apprentice in good standing who is at least half-way through the apprenticeship program, demonstrates a high degree of professionalism and is highly regarded by other apprentices, instructors and employers. 

Westphal’s employer said he “tackles the apprenticeship program with a passion … not seen in other apprentices. He has tackled job after job going above and beyond what we would ever expect from an apprentice. His desire to not only learn the trade, but also help his fellow apprentices learn the trade is refreshing to watch.”

Westphal also received an iPad donated by Acuity Insurance as part of the Apprentice of the Year recognition. 

Photos from the apprenticeship graduation banquet can be found in ABC of Wisconsin’s Flickr album at