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Patrick Sykes, a 2017 graduate of Belgreen and a fourth year in the master apprentice program for the Birmingham, Ala. based insulators union, takes second place in this year’s competition (for the U.S. and Canada).

Local insulator places second in U.S., Canada master apprentice competition


Patrick Sykes, a 2017 graduate of Belgreen and a fourth year in the master apprentice program for the Birmingham, Ala., based insulators union, placed second in this year’s competition (for the U.S. and Canada). The competition took place July 15-19 in Houston, Texas. He is married to Peyton Sykes.

“Every year, we do an in-house competition, and the winner of that gets to go and compete in their region,” Sykes explained, “so I competed in the southeastern conference. The winner of that gets to go compete against the winners of the other conferences in the U.S. and Canada, ten total competitions in the final stage.”

Sykes described it as an “honor” to be able to participate at all.
 “I did a written test of a hundred questions,” he continued. “They covered all areas of our online training we’ve done over the last four years of our apprenticeship program. For the next part, I had three days to complete it, and that was the hands-on portion.”

Sykes said the first day of that involved being shown the mockup station.
 “It’s just PVC pipe that’s been put together, and then we have to put insulation on it and put metal and PVC on. For each competitor, it’s the same station, and they make something that represents the city in that year.”

He said this year, since the competition was in Houston, they did a rocket ship, longhorn horns and a big ‘T’ for Texas. Sykes explained his pleasant surprise in how high he placed.

“There were a lot of really good competitors, and everybody that was down there definitely deserved to be there. You don’t have to be a fourth year to go, but I am, and you’re only allowed to go one time, so it’s kind of a big deal just to be able to go,” he added.

Sykes was there on behalf of his union (International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Local Allied Workers, No. 78, based out of Birmingham, Ala.) and currently works for Progressive Insulation in Florence, Ala. 
 Sykes said there’s something different about each job.

“We do industrial insulation, and that entails metaling and piping and other things in industrial plants,” he explained. “We insulate pipe, put metal on it and we do commercial plants, too. I could be putting insulation and metal on a boiler one day and the next working on duct work or piping.”
 Sykes said he hadn’t really thought about this career path until he was in college and a job came up close to where he lived. His dad, Kenneth Sykes, talked him into going.

“I realized I enjoyed doing it, and my dad was sick with cancer. I realized I could enjoy doing this, not just be working a job. My grandpa, Walter Sykes, started in 1942 in the local in Mobile. He worked for 12 years there then transferred to our local until he retired at 82.”

Sykes said his father started at age 18 for their local for 37 years until he got sick and retired. 
 For Patrick Sykes, he gets to do what he loves for work, something he doesn’t take for granted.

“What I enjoy is that I’m a third-generation insulator in our local,” Sykes said. “It’s nice to be able to carry on a family tradition of quality craftsmanship, and I also enjoy the work because I get to do different things every day, so it’s not monotonous.”

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