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FTI Honors 2 Apprentices of the Year

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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Coating industry elders despairing of the next generation can take heart from two young painters who have just been named 2011 “Apprentices of the Year” by their Finishing Trades Institute District Councils.

Thomas Long, of Vulcan Painters Inc., was named Apprentice of the Year for District Council 77, which represents eight locals in five states. And in Illinois, Gerardo Ponce, of D.E.S. Painting, took the same honor for District Council 30, which represents nine locals in two states.

Long and Ponce were recognized for their leadership skills, work ethic, technical proficiency, ability to follow directions, attitude, achievement above the minimum requirements, and apparently insatiable appetites for training and community involvement.

Thomas Long, D.C. 77

Thomas Long, 24, of Sumiton, AL, exceeded every criteria judged and has “proven that he stands out above the rest,” said Charles R. Hill, director of FTI D.C. 77.

Long joined Vulcan, an industrial painting contractor, two years ago.  After a stint at another contractor, he has been back with Vulcan since August 2011.

How does Long approach his work?  “Seriously,” he says.

The aspiring field supervisor “has taken every training available and wants to take more,” said Vulcan Painters spokeswoman Susan Boyd.

 Thomas Long
Thomas Long, of Vulcan Painters Inc., was selected from 190 apprentices in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.

That includes a mission to achieve Coating Application Specialist (CAS) certification. Says Long: “If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it all out, not just halfway.”

Long started out studying heating and air conditioning at a junior college before a talk with Vulcan’s industrial superintendent led him to make a change.

“I figured I could go somewhere with this,” said Long, a married father of a 4-year-old daughter with a son on the way. “I got in the union, and I like it. I always wanted to be a part of something like this.

“I’m going to make a career of it, I know that.”  

Gerardo Ponce, PDC 30

PDC 30’s Ponce “went above and beyond” the requirements for outstanding classroom performance, work history and attendance “by demonstrating dedication to the trade through participation in additional training and leadership opportunities,” says Stephen Lefaver, training coordinator for the council.

 Chuck Anderson, of Painters District Council No. 30 in Illinois, presents the 2011 “Apprentice of the Year” Award to Gerardo Ponce
Chuck Anderson, of Painters District Council No. 30 in Illinois, presents the 2011 “Apprentice of the Year” Award to Gerardo Ponce.

Ponce’s grades topped those of all of his peers, and he did not miss a day of work in three years.  In addition to his apprenticeship work, he averaged 1,600 work hours each year.

“He just had this intrigue about the trade,” Lefaver said. “He was always looking for more ways to perfect his skills.”

By the end of his apprenticeship, Ponce had earned so many Leadership Development Credits for activities outside of class that fellow apprentices “wanted to buy” his extras, Lefaver said.

Ponce, 31, of Chicago, also took numerous continuing-education health and safety classes under the PDC 30’s Safety Training Awards and Recognition (STAR) program. He also attended classes outside of the apprenticeship program and pursued training on his days off, officials said.

Ponce works for D.E.S. Painting Inc., an industrial, commercial and residential contractor in Chicago. He and his wife are expecting a child soon.

“He always came to class with a great attitude,” said instructor David Arvayo. “He got along with every apprentice, and he never caused trouble.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Gerardo Ponce will succeed in his trade. He will do more than that: He will thrive.”


Tagged categories: Awards and honors; Health and safety; Industrial Contractors; Painters; Worker training

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