Training & Education

International Competition Highlights UA Event

United Association Celebrates 60 Years at 2013 Training Conference

September 30, 2013

This August, the United Association (UA) marked 60 years of dedication to training at its annual weeklong Instructor Training Program, held once again on the campus of Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Al Caron, welding director at UA Local 51 in Providence, R.I., said the event, which offers numerous courses in everything from teaching techniques to trade-specific cutting-edge technology, is an opportunity for instructors to brush up on current skills and learn about advances in the industry.

“Guys coming in here are instructors in their districts — nationwide, in Canada, and we have Australia — and they come here to hone their skill and learn from other instructors, and from industry representatives, of any changes, new technology, and new techniques,” Caron said. “(They) share that information with their local members.”

Bob Feathers, a technical training specialist for Emerson Climate Technologies, taught a course on techniques for teaching students to troubleshoot electrical and mechanical air conditioning and refrigeration system problems at the event.

“This is our second year up at the UA event in Ann Arbor,” Feathers said. “We enjoy coming up here to visit with the folks at the UA; they’ve always been great hosts. I think developing these relationships, no matter with whom it may be, is very important for us as a manufacturer.”

The UA event drew more than 2,000 participants this year and also played host to the UA’s annual International Apprentice Contest, during which apprentices from the U.S., Canada, and Australia competed head-to-head to see who was the best of the best.

Ivan Smith, HVAC program director at Anthem Education in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said the competition is a way to put a spotlight on industry careers while recognizing outstanding young talent.

“We need good technicians, and right now there’s a shortage of them nationwide,” Smith said. “It’s good to see young men out here doing something positive with their lives in the trade industry.”

Neil Mani, an HVACR journeyman and last year’s HVAC division International Apprentice Contest winner, agreed with Smith, stating that, “It really does a nice job of showcasing the UA’s training program,” adding that the program is also a great way to see how various programs stack up against one another.

“One of the things they’ve found is that they’re very, very similar,” he said. “These guys show up with a very similar skill set, ready to do all these projects, and the judges just pull their hair out trying to find the details between whose project is better. It’s a lot of close measuring, and a lot of times it comes down to one or two points when everything’s done.”

Rod Jara, training specialist at the UA training department, emphasized the role of the UA’s apprenticeship program in providing opportunities for young adults.

“The apprenticeship program provides careers,” Jara said. “That’s a big difference from a job. We don’t offer a job, we offer a career.”

This year, three HVAC apprentices took home awards.

Aldo Cassina, an HVAC apprentice from Local 537 in Boston, earned the Allyn Parmenter/George Bliss award.

Michael West, an HVAC apprentice from Local 142 in San Antonio, received the Copper Development Association award.

Derek Sisera, an HVAC apprentice from Local 787 in Toronto, finished as the 2013 UA International Apprentice Competition’s HVAC division winner.

For more information on the United Association, visit

Publication date: 9/30/2013 

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