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Every year, Associated Builders and Contractor (ABC) holds the National Craft Championships (NCC), in which more than 200 craft trainees from companies across the country compete in their trades—all hoping to win the gold. This year, Iowa Insulation’s Jacob Nelson took home the gold medal for the insulation competition. Another employee from the company competed with ABC of Iowa Apprenticeship & Training Trust, which took home the gold in the team competition.

NCC was a great week for Iowa Insulation and really demonstrated how focused our company is on developing talent and producing the most mechanically sound product possible,” says Mike Bradley, an apprenticeship teacher for Iowa Insulation.

Here’s how Iowa Insulation’s training program and culture of quality helps develop top craft professionals.

Apprenticeship Program

Iowa Insulation's apprenticeship program teaches employees early on about the “Iowa Insulation Way.” This means proper application of materials, knowledge of systems, jobsite etiquette, critical thinking and effective communication.

As the instructor, Bradley uses events or situations that actually happen, letting students discuss the situation and determine the best solutions. “Overall, we try to use our program to prepare our apprentices for anything they may encounter so they can be professional, intelligent insulators going forward,” Bradley says.

Company Structure

Iowa Insulation also always has a “layer” of employees at various levels. Currently, it has new trainees with less than three months of experience, fourth-year apprentices, journeymen with 10 to 15 years of experience and journeymen with more than 20 years of experience under their belts.

“All these groups have about the same number of employees, which helps to pass down techniques and knowledge while also being innovative about what we do,” Bradley says. “This is critical when maintaining a consistently quality product.”

It also is structured to ensure there’s plenty of supervision on the jobsite. The company’s jobsite supervisors ensure the practices learned in the apprenticeship program are applied in the field, as it’s their responsibility to ensure all insulation is being installed correctly.

The jobsite supervisors are monitored by project managers to ensure everything is going according to plan. “This is our way of making sure there isn't just one person checking over work before it is submitted as a final product,” Bradley says. “By having project managers go through and double-check the work, we have the best chance to leave the job with best product possible in place.”

Understanding Industry Standards

Iowa Insulation follows MICA standards for mechanical insulation and uses the NCCER curriculum for its apprenticeship program; both provide information necessary to properly insulate almost anything, according to Bradley.

Bradley instructs his students to make these standards second nature and understand and apply them every day. “By following these standards, we ensure our work is mechanically sound, efficiently applied and will last for years to come,” Bradley says.


Communication and accountability for each day’s work is key for Iowa Insulation, as it’s common for newer employees to work on two to three different jobsites per week. Without focusing on clear communication, employees would not be able to maintain a high level of productivity and professionalism every day.

Iowa Insulation is just one of the great companies that took home medals during ABC’s NCC. Click here for a full list of winners and click here for a more in-depth Construction Executive article on the event.

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