WISCONSIN DELLS – Nearly 350 graduating apprentices from 11 trades were recognized for their accomplishments at the 2023 Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Wisconsin Apprenticeship Graduation Banquet on Friday, May 19 in Wisconsin Dells. Some 650 family members, instructors, and friends also attended the event at the Wilderness Resort’s Glacier Canyon Conference Center. Roughly 1/3 of this year’s 350 graduates made the trip from various parts of the state to cross the stage.
“This is the most rewarding event ABC of Wisconsin holds all year because of the accomplishments being acknowledged,” said John Mielke, president of ABC of Wisconsin. “These men and women are the future of our industry, and know they will keep our industry in good hands.”
Friday’s keynote speaker was David Polk, Director of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards. The Milwaukee native became a third generation licensed plumber early in his career, returned to school to earn his bachelor’s degree and transitioned into apprenticeship administration several years ago at Milwaukee Area Technical College. He became director of the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards in February 2022.
“I know that this is a day that you have all been working towards for a long time. It is a day of great accomplishment and pride,” Polk told the graduates. “You have all shown great commitment to your apprenticeships, and it has paid off,” he said.
The graduating apprentices participated in ABC’s carpentry; concrete finishing; construction craft laborer; electrical; heat and frost insulating; heavy equipment operating; heating, ventilating and air conditioning; plumbing; roofing; sheet metal; sprinkler fitting; steamfitting; and well drill operator/pump installer programs.
ABC of Wisconsin also recognized a Craft Professional of the Year, an Instructor of the Year, an Apprentice of the Year, and a Construction Industry Commitment Award for contributions to apprenticeship and the craft trades.
The Craft Professional of the Year Award was presented to Nick Dunlavy, project foreman and master electrician with PDC Electrical Contractors of Monroe. Dunlavy is highly regarded by apprentices and employers and has demonstrated a high degree of professionalism. He takes time to train and guide apprentices because he genuinely cares about their growth. He is concerned about the development of others in their own careers.
The Instructor of the Year Award went to Scott Theilig, carpentry instructor at Northwood Technical College in Rice Lake. His nominators described him as “encouraging, caring, determined, insightful and relatable.” He is an instructor that has the knowledge and ability to use experiences and education that we would normally never get the chance to do themselves. Theilig challenges his students in their careers while also giving them all the tools they need to be successful.
The Apprentice of the Year Award was presented to Alex Rodriguez Vazquez who attends Waukesha County Technical College and is employed at Dave Jones. “He is extremely hardworking and has precise accuracy and attention to detail,” according to his nominator. He is someone that foremen ask for by name to be on their jobsites. He is humble, focused, fast, and never complains about any work that is given. Rodriguez Vazquez has a positive attitude and his actions have influenced so many around him.
Finally, Travis Ray of McFarland High School was presented with the Construction Industry Commitment Award. Travis has been teaching for 18 years, and at McFarland High School for 13 years. One ABC contractor described Ray as having the perfect balance of compassion and tough love. For 8 years, Travis not only taught the students at McFarland High School, but he also taught a night Building Trades class through the Dane County School Consortium for those students in all of Dane County participating in construction Youth Apprenticeship. Ray knows how to connect with kids, has a great relationship with the business community and is a self-proclaimed headhunter for construction.
Ed Crownhard, an instructor at Mid-State Technical College in Marshfield and Burt Harding, an apprenticeship representative with the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards, were also recognized.