Carpenters union showcases its best and brightest at Golden Hammer awards

05.03.2024 jwatson

The New York City District Council of Carpenters’ (NYCDCC) Golden Hammer Awards has grown beyond a morale booster to its graduating apprentices to being a recruitment tool for the next generation of skilled workers.

The Golden Hammer competition, which the carpenters union held on March 26, tests the graduating apprentice’s skills in various carpentry trades. It’s a rite of passage for the senior apprentices, but it also serves a real role in identifying movers and shakers in the union ranks.

“That’s how we identify our future leaders. We’re gonna look back and say who was the Golden Hammer of 2024? And those individuals more than likely will be leaders — foremen or leaders of companies,” said James Hayes, director of training at NYCDCC’s headquarters.

The union has turned the contest into an open house. It both provides visiting local elected officials a window into what the union workers do as well as local high school students union has started busing in to the event to give them a taste of what kinds of skills they could learn through the union’s sought-after apprenticeship program.

“The whole event was a celebration of the next generation of talent that will build the future of our city,” said Joseph Geiger, executive secretary-treasurer of the NYCDCC.

The event welcomed around 250 students from local high schools to witness the apprentices at work — a sign of the increased interest from high schoolers in going straight into the union trades after graduation.

“I think our outreach has improved,” Hayes said. “We’ve visited more high schools.”

Hayes said that this year, the union has recruited 75 of the most qualified applicants out of a pool of 300 to participate in the apprenticeship program. The NYCDCC’s revamped application program serves as an attempt to encourage the most out of its students and deliver higher levels of skills to its contractors, which employ the apprentices.

The application process is one out of a number of initiatives the training center has underway to improve its training. Hayes said that by next year, materials will be delivered electronically on tablets instead of textbooks, and the program is revisiting several specializations like the millwright and high-rise instruction.

The students’ training all comes under the test during the Golden Hammer, when 30 apprentices across trades battle it out for tops marks in contests like interior systems, cabinets and machine assembly.

Graduating apprentice Luis Velasquez was working on an interior work project that involved building a ramp. He said that he was just happy to work on a project with his fellow peers and be given the chance to compete. To him, the contest largely just gave him that satisfaction that he was nearing the completion of his apprenticeship.

“It feels great to have achieved something and it’s a career. It’s a great way to help and support my family,” said Velasquez.