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Elite Trades Championship Series celebrates the trades—and inspires the next generation

Brendan Meyer
December 7th, 2023
4 Min Read

Chris Hunter spoke on a panel in a conference room full of high school students at the Elite Trades Championship Series (ETCS) in Tampa, Florida—and immediately grabbed their attention.

“Raise your hand if you want a Lamborghini someday,” he said, and most students raised their hands.

“Raise your hand if you want a beach house,” Hunter said, and most hands stayed up.

“Raise your hand if you want to retire early and travel the world.” 

This time, even some of the teachers in the room raised their hands.

Hunter, a ServiceTitan principal industry adviser, founder of Hunter Super Techs and co-founder of the GoTime Success Group, was proving a point: A career in the trades can provide all of that and then some.

The panel was meant to shine a spotlight on those facts to the next generation entering the workforce. And there was no better time and place. The ETCS attracts the best tradespeople from across the country, from electricians to plumbers to HVAC techs, who all compete for prize money and a championship.

The ServiceTitan HVAC National Championship premieres on CBS Sports Network on Friday, Dec. 15, at 8 p.m. ET, and highlights the backstories and talents of the participants. But the real purpose of the ETCS isn’t prizes or glory. 

It’s meant to celebrate the trades and inspire people to join.

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Feeling the love

Dagner Espinosa certainly felt celebrated.

The Tampa HVAC tech at Maintenx qualified for the semifinals in the ServiceTitan HVAC National Championship, then advanced to the final round—with more than 10 co-workers and family members cheering him on from the crowd.

Espinosa learned about the ETCS by stumbling upon it on TV last year, and watched it with awe.

“It’s amazing that somebody is thinking about the trades, and putting them on TV, and (awarding) prizes,” Espinosa said. “It lets the people know what we’re doing and how hard our job is.”

Espinosa finished second, earning a $20,000 check. He was right behind Craig Childress, who not only won the ServiceTitan HVAC National Championship but also the Plumbing National Championship—becoming the ETCS’s first-ever crossover champion.

“Professionally, this is the most ridiculous thing that’s ever happened to me,” Childress said in a daze of joy moments after walking off the winner’s stage.

In the weeks since the competition, that joyous daze has been accompanied by a deep gratitude for the awareness that the ETCS brings to the trades, as well as a platform to encourage others to join the industry.

“My best advice to somebody entering the trades is learn as much as you possibly can,” Childress said. “Keep on learning. It is never a good time to stop learning. You learn until you retire.”

‘Just go ahead and do it’

Lots of awards were handed out over the two-day event.

In the electrical competition, apprentices José Renteria (1st place), Dino Gualandri (2nd place) and Devin Slifer (3rd place) rounded out the winner’s circle for the 2023 Ideal Elite Electricians National Championship. In plumbing, Childress took home the inaugural trophy, followed by David Shanor (2nd place) and Joe Jaspers (3rd place).

As for HVAC, a recognizable face made it to the finals: Lee Morris Jr. 

He placed second in the competition in 2022, and this year, he finished third.

The HVAC tech from Charleston, South Carolina, gushed about the competition and the spotlight it brings to the trades. And he also came prepped with a recruiting pitch.

“If you’re thinking about entering the trades, don’t hold back. Just go ahead and do it,” Morris Jr. said. “They have trade schools where you can learn a lot about it. But if you want to really get into it, you have to get your hands in there, get them dirty, and apply what you learned.”

More HVAC Championship Coverage

• Apprentice Division: Patrick Boldt makes his second trip to Tampa, and this time comes away with the trophy and the title. Read more.

• Professional Division: Craig Childress becomes the first crossover champion in Elite Trades history. Read more.

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