SAGINAW - IBEW Local 557 apprentice Howard Revard has been named the International Union's Apprentice of the Year for 2016.
Revard, 26, is a fourth-year apprentice who currently works for Nelson Electric, and by all accounts he's a skilled electrician. But it's his involvement in his union and in public service - as well as his desire to motivate fellow union members to become more active in the community - that led to his winning the award.
"I'm very proud to be a member of the IBEW," Revard said, "and I am really humbled and thrilled to receive this award. It's a reflection that people care about what I do, and it's a motivation to do more."
Revard had no inkling that he was even nominated for the award until Local 557 Business Manager Evan Allardyce told him in mid-January that he was one of three finalists. Revard was nominated by a co-worker, who secretly filled out a nomination form.
"One of our members, journeyman Ben Small, saw the contest application online and said 'wouldn't it be nice if Howard were nominated for this award?'" said Allardyce. "Ben wrote up a very thorough two-page description of all of Howard’s involvements. When the follow-up interview from the IBEW Hour Power rep Matthew Walton came up, it was just icing on the cake to gush about Howard for another 30 minutes on the phone."
Most recently Revard was behind an effort for union members to adopt a needy family during the holiday season. He helped re-wire and improve the lighting at a building serving the local "Underground Railroad," a group that serves victims of domestic violence sexual assault. He has worked with the United Way of Saginaw County in their "Project Independence" ramp-building program so disabled people can more easily access their homes. He helped re-light Veteran’s Memorial Park in Saginaw. He has organized the union's involvement in parades and festivals, participated in food drives, and raised money to purchase a pair of Local 557 banners for use in such events.
Revard sponsors a committee of younger generation electricians, with the goal of getting them more involved in their union and in the community. He acts as the local union's press secretary. Revard also found time to run for school board trustee in Thomas Twp., narrowly losing in the election last November.
"He speaks and handles himself very well in front of people, and he's always looking for new ways to be involved around the community, and get IBEW members involved, and get our name out there," said Allardyce. "I don't know how he finds the time. He's just the embodiment of a good person and a good union member, from start to finish."
The IBEW's Apprentice of the Year award, which "honors the best in the business," will be given to Revard on March 30 at the International Union's annual Construction and Maintenance Conference. An "Instructor of the Year" and a "Journeyman Mentor of the Year" will also be recognized at the international conference.
"I can't think of an apprentice who deserves this more than Howard," said Rick Mason, training director for the Flint-Saginaw Electrical JATC. "As an apprentice electrician, he's eager to learn, and he's a natural leader. But he always has his hands in something, and it always seems to be about helping others."
Michigan has been a hot spot in recent years for the IBEW's top apprentice award. Harry Hutchison of IBEW Local 252 (Ann Arbor) won the award in 2015, and Tracy Bero of IBEW Local 979 (Escanaba) won in 2011.
Howard is the nephew of Greg Revard, the general secretary treasurer of the Heat and Frost Insulators International Union, and a former business manager of Local 47 (Lansing). "The labor movement always is in need of getting young people involved in their union, involved in their community," Greg Revard said. "Howard is one of those future leaders. He's a great person, and this is a nice honor for him."
A video crew from the IBEW came to the Local 557 union hall on Jan. 20 to interview Howard Revard and others about the award, and show him working on a jobsite in Midland. Howard gets a free trip to the IBEW conference in Washington D.C., and while there will get to tour some attractions, including the IBEW International Office and museum.
"I feel good about the future for unions, the labor movement is really starting to get the ball rolling in terms of workers being more aware of their rights," Howard Revard said. "And I see a lot of younger members realizing that the success of their union is tied in with their future success, and it's time to become more involved."
Howard Revard next to the IBEW Local 557 banner.
WITH IBEW Apprentice of the Year Howard Revard (center) are (l-r) Local 557 Business Manager Evan Allardyce, Mike Combs, Dave Small (past Local 557 Business Manager), Ben Small, Tony Bell and Dan Alcock Jr.