Volunteers Make AOY Go ‘Round 

IEC’s Apprentice of the Year (AOY) competition is an annual event that requires nearly 40 volunteers and staff to develop and execute. The hours are long but the reward is worth it: a challenging event for IEC’s most talented Fourth Year apprentices.  

AOY requires almost two days for setup, which means volunteers are inventorying parts; organizing tools, competitor uniforms, and prizes; and overseeing the construction of the competition area, which includes the motor control boards and the productivity challenge structure. The expo floor is full of sounds: voices calling to one another, beeping forklifts, carpet rolls dropping to the ground, and lots of power tools whirring as they cut and drill.  

The competition’s lead coordinator is Raul Vasquez, executive director of IEC Indy and longtime AOY coordinator. He develops contest scenarios with veteran volunteer Lowell Reith, Interstates, IEC Rocky Mountain. This pair is a powerhouse and, this year, guided Rich Bird, Shea’s Electric, IEC New England, through the competition’s details as he’ll eventually transition to lead coordinator.  

In addition to dozens of people working together to make AOY happen, it also takes a lot of bacon, coffee, and patience. Ask any of the volunteers. They’ll tell you it’s true.  

There are many front-facing volunteers and almost as many behind-the-scenes. Each do their part—whether noticed by onlookers or not—and always exceed expectations.   

“Without our volunteers, it would be a challenge to run AOY,” said Vasquez. “Each person has a responsibility, whether it’s judging, proctoring, organizing materials, packing, or shipping. Each task is essential to running a great competition for the apprentices.” 

“This was my first time shadowing Raul and learning how AOY operates,” said Bird, “and it was incredible to me to see the level of coordination involved. There’s a lot to learn but when you have a great team of volunteers and staff supporting you, it’s totally doable.” 

IEC National thanks all AOY volunteers for their time, effort, and dedication to IEC. Without them, AOY would not exist. 

2022 AOY Volunteers 

Alphabetical by first name 

  • Brandon Yates, IEC Kentucky & Southern Indiana  
  • Chaz Hooley, IEC Oregon 
  • Chris Mann, IEC Kentucky & Southern Indiana 
  • Christopher Johnson, City Electrical Inspector, Louisville 
  • Dave Gilson, IEC Oregon 
  • David Nutter, IEC Florida East Coast 
  • Eric Peralez, CenTex IEC  
  • Gilbert Soliz, IEC Texas Gulf Coast 
  • Jake Gray, IEC of Greater Cincinnati 
  • Jake Jackson, IEC Rocky Mountain 
  • Jeff Bischoff, IEC of Greater Cincinnati 
  • Jessie Chaney, IEC Indy 
  • Jim Donze, IEC Florida West Coast 
  • Josh Ackerman, IEC Oregon 
  • Jym Damico, CenTex IEC 
  • Keith Haskell, IEC Atlanta 
  • Ken Adams, IEC of Utah 
  • Kenneth Walley, IEC Texas Gulf Coast 
  • Kevin Collins, IEC of Greater Cincinnati 
  • Kristi Wickard, IEC Pennsylvania 
  • Lowell Reith, IEC Rocky Mountain 
  • Mark Kempton, IEC Florida West Coast 
  • Mike Gunter, IEC Atlanta 
  • Paul Lingo, IEC Rocky Mountain 
  • Raul Vasquez, IEC Indy 
  • Rich Bird, IEC New England 
  • Robert Lowry, IEC–OKC 
  • Ryan Jackson, Ryan Jackson Electrical Training 
  • Scott Bloom, ATP 
  • Sean Clark, IEC of Greater Cincinnati 
  • Stephen Wank, IEC Florida West Coast 
  • Steve Levering, IEC of Greater Cincinnati 
  • Tim Oberg, IEC Indy 
  • Tom Seiter, IEC of Greater Cincinnati 
  • Tony Adolf, IEC Florida West Coast 
  • Tony Gutierrez, IEC Southern Colorado 
  • Zack Jarmon, IEC Fort Worth / Tarrant County 

 

“This was my second time volunteering and my first time as a judge. I was nervous about being a judge, but we had a great team of volunteers which made for a smooth and efficient process. As a first-year instructor, I get to see the students when they are starting out. As an AOY volunteer, I get to see all four years of school being put to the test. It’s energizing! I return to my chapter/classroom energized and motivated. Volunteering also gives me the opportunity to connect with students from different chapters outside the competition. I had several amazing conversations with some the competitors about their future.”  

– Tony Gutierrez, IEC Southern Colorado, Conduit Bending Judge  

 

“This was not my first year attending the IEC National convention, but it was the first year without the experience of Hank Strittmatter guiding me. My goal was to meet other training directors and leaders who were serious about making their programs great. I knew volunteering with AOY would help make those connections.  

“While volunteering, I realized how important it was for those apprentices to have moral support. I also realized how demanding the schedule was for the competitors. Every time our apprentice and my newly adopted apprentices had to be somewhere, I had to ensure we were all there on time and with tools.  

“One of the most remarkable experiences for me was watching the competition and thinking about how we, as a chapter, can better prepare our apprentices to compete at this level and earn their CPE.”  

Zack Jarmon, IEC Fort Worth / Tarrant County, First-Time Volunteer 

 

“As an instructor I get to be a small part of an apprentice’s journey toward becoming an electrician. I have watched hundreds of students not only succeed in their education but go on to excel in careers covering many different aspects in the electrical industry. It is vital that we not only pass on the knowledge and experience we have learned from our time in the field but also to inspire the next generation to keep our industry moving forward. There are many people out there with the ability to accomplish things we have never accomplished before. The IEC program helps provide the training, inspiration, and motivation to bring that ability to light, and I love being a part of that. 

“The productivity section of the competition assesses how well the competitors can complete a basic electrical installation, such as lighting, switches, and receptacles. Watching a person grow from their first night of class learning about electrons to competing with top students from around the country is an extremely rewarding experience. I love being a part of the competition because it feels like the culmination of the learning experience in the IEC program. Of course, who doesn’t love to watch a little healthy competition between competitors where they have to dig down deep and give everything they’ve got if they want to be the champion!”  

Steve Levering, IEC of Greater Cincinnati, Productivity Competition Coordinator 

 

“As a non-electrician but a training director/apprenticeship coordinator within the IEC, I am grateful for the opportunity to support the AOY competition every year. For the past three years, I have assisted with the organization of the AOY wire-off competition boxes, which includes the distribution of specific materials needed for each competitor. Not only have I enjoyed interacting with other AOY committee members during competition preparation, but it has helped me gain knowledge of the names and functions of certain materials that are utilized during the day and life of an electrician. My participation has also provided me a better understanding of those materials when I’m preparing material lists and supply requests for my instructors and of the hands-on activities and labs embedded within the IEC curriculum.”  

Kristi Wickard, IEC Pennsylvania, Volunteer 

 

“It’s always great to see the dedicated volunteers year after year at AOY competition. These volunteers, many electrical contractors, come from different IEC chapters across the country and we certainly could not do it without them. Thank you to ALL volunteers. We continue to advocate for the independent merit shop philosophy and your help moving forward is vital.  

“As a volunteer, I am honored to be a part of our next generation electricians’ education and success. These apprentices are the best the electrical industry has to offer, and we are all excited to see how they do in competitions. The journey for these next generation leaders has just begun and as WE ARE IEC, we hope to see their involvement in the future to ensure the success of our AWESOME ELECTRICAL INDUSTRY.”  

Paul Lingo, IEC Rocky Mountain, Motor Controls and Productivity Judge  

 

“I have been the training manager for IEC Florida West Coast Chapter for about five months and spend a lot of my time wondering how I can make our program better as a whole. When I heard that we were going to the IEC National conference, I knew it was time to step up.  

“This was my first ever IEC National convention and I can already promise it won’t be my last. From volunteering, the amount of people I’ve met and the amount of time I spent exchanging ideas and learning was astronomical. I started out on the inventory team, then I noticed their gang-box was chaos, so I spent awhile organizing that. I started helping everywhere I could after that. I spent some time running materials back and forth for the contestants, then I helped set up the productivity problem. After that I helped cut conduit in half and was shown how to judge conduit bending on the national level.   

“Simply by volunteering I have met so many amazing people that are willing to help me with not only the problems I face at work, but as a person. My time in Louisville was incredible and the relationships I built have been a gift. The IEC community does a fantastic job in making sure everyone feels like they are a part of the family.” 

Tony Adolf, IEC Florida West Coast, First-Time Volunteer  

 

 

Kevin Collins, IEC of Greater Cincinnati, briefing contestants for the Productivity Challenge. 

Gilbert Soliz and Tony Gutierrez judging conduit bends.

Paul Lingo, IEC Rocky Mountain, and Scott Bloom, ATP, judging the Motor Controls competition.