Sprinkler fitter apprentice Chris Pierog of United Association (U.A.) Local 853 Sprinkler Fitters Ontario recently won the U.A. International Apprentice Competition held in Ann Arbor, Mich.
While he is proud of the accomplishment, he admits he wasn't even planning on entering the contest this year.
"I was planning on entering next year but my teacher suggested I give it a shot this year because if I didn't make it this year I could try it again next year. I ended up winning the whole thing," he stated. "It was an amazing experience. I learned much more than I thought I would and I can't thank the United Association and Local 853 enough for giving me this opportunity."
Pierog won first place in the Skills Ontario competition in Toronto, which advanced him to the Skills Canada contest in Winnipeg where he was awarded the silver medal in the sprinkler systems category. He then moved on to represent Local 853/Central Canada at the U.A. National Apprentice contest in Toronto, which led to the most recent week-long international competition in Ann Arbor where he took the top spot.
"I think it is important to compete in these competitions mainly due to the fact that you learn something new during every competition," said Pierog. "They also help you make a name for yourself within the union and your trade. You meet so many people involved while making connections with people all over North America and Australia."
The competition in Ann Arbor included a written test as well as tests in crane signalling, material identification and CPR. There was also a trade specific math test, an isometric drawing test, a layout project and a CPVC plastic piping project. The major project was installing piping for a fire pump.
"We were given no plans and had to design it ourselves," Pierog explained. "They really test your ability to work under pressure as the majority of the projects are timed."
It also included a copper piping project that was a small competition within the competition. Pierog won that as well and the $1,000 prize.
Pierog, of Guelph, Ont., is a third-year sprinkler/fire protection apprentice. He currently works for Automated Fire Protection Systems in Mississauga, and has been studying at the U.A. Local 853 Union Hall in Markham, Ont. to complete his apprenticeship. He has two years left as an apprentice.
Pierog completed a carpentry apprenticeship at Conestoga College in Waterloo prior to deciding to enter the sprinkler trade.
"It was hard to find a job that paid well coming out of a carpentry apprentice," Pierog said. "My father-in-law had been offering me a job with sprinklers for a while so I finally took him up on it."