National contest validates the excellence of masonry skills
48th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference
By Bryan Light
The noise of power hammers, saws and drills filled cavernous Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo., as power equipment technicians, carpenters and cabinetmakers worked to complete their projects. Nearby, 48 masons-to-be quietly slung their mud; laid their block and brick; and tried to tap, tap, tap them into perfect position. For up to six hours, each contestant in the national masonry championships strove to build the best composite project out of 186 brick, perfectly placed according to plans, on a concrete block base.
The contest was part of the 48th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, a showcase of career and technical education students, held June 23 – 27, 2012.
On the last night, the awards ceremony was held at Kemper Arena in front of a crowd estimated at over 15,000. The 2012 winner of the post secondary / college competition was Jordan R. Hartsell, Central Cabarrus High School, Concord, N.C. The winner of the secondary / high school competition was Michael Kern, Berks Career & Technical Center – East Campus, Oley, Pa.
Student interest in masonry vocational training continues to be strong. This year 32 high school and 16 post secondary / college contestants from 34 states competed in two classes of competition. The student competitors had been winners of their own state or regional event.
In Kansas City, they competed for six hours to demonstrate their expertise in this ancient profession. The contest consisted of a written test and the construction of a brick and block composite project. The project was designed to test the skills needed for successful entry into the profession.
2012 National Brick Masonry Contest Winners
Post Secondary CompetitionFirst Place: Jordan R. Hartsell
Central Cabarrus High School, Concord, N.C.
Instructor Todd Hartsell
Second Place: Drew Tersinar, Fort Scott Community College, Ft. Scott, Kan.
Instructor Nacoma Oehme
Third Place: Rody Feiler
Alexandria Technical & Community College, Alexandria, Minn.
Instructor David Malone.
High School (Secondary) CompetitionFirst Place: Michael Kern
Berks Career & Technical Center – East Campus, Oley, Pa.
Instructor Michael Kern.
Second Place: McKenley McPeters
Pickens County Career and Technology Center, Liberty, S.C.
Instructor Jeff Stephens.
Third Place: Jacob Fulford
Pedro Menendez High School, St. Augustine, Fla.
Instructor James Crutchfield.
Eight volunteer judges, professionals from Bricklayers Local #15 and vocational instructors from five states, paired-up to judge the projects by taking extensive measurements, measuring plumb at six locations, and judging finishing techniques and overall appearance.
Technical Committee Chair Bryan Light of Brick Industry Association – SE Region, said, “Industry support for this annual trade competition remains as it should be -- fantastic.”
Other sustaining members of the national technical committee for the masonry contest include Nick Blohowiak, SPEC MIX, Inc. (Wis.); John Bongiovanni, Bon Tool Co. (Pa.); Gregg Borchelt, Brick Industry Association (Va.); Pete Cieslak, Brick Industry Association SE Region (N.C.): Jeff Buczkiewicz, Mason Contractors Association of America (Ill.); Brian Carney, SPEC MIX, Inc. (Minn.); Rolly Cox, Multiquip Corp (Ohio); Dennis Graber, National Concrete Masonry Assn. (Va.), Kim Haley, Marshalltown Co. (Iowa); Bill Kjorlien, Argos USA (Ga.); and Bob Melton, Masonry Institute of Tennessee (Tenn.).
The national education team assists the national technical committee. Those members include Al Herndon, Florida Masonry Apprentice and Education Foundation (Fla.); Rich Nagy (Ohio); Todd Larson, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (Wis.); Billy Matkins, New Albany Schools (Miss.); and Richard McKnight, Hannah-Pamplico High School (S.C.).
This year’s 48 contestants were supported in their efforts by donations of mortar and scholarships from Spec Mix, brick from Yankee Hill, Lincoln, Neb., and block from Midwest Products. Tools were donated by Bon Tool Co., Marshalltown Co., and Smith Levels. Spec Mix salesmen from around the country were "slingin' their mud" throughout the day in support of the aspiring masons.
Other supporting organizations included Lowe’s Companies, Inc.; Calculated Industries, Inc.; and Timberland PRO.
Other highlights of the three-day conclave included a field trip to a local block plant. This was followed by a luncheon in honor of the contestants and their instructors. At the luncheon, Rich Nagy spoke to the contestants, enthusiastically describing his pride in being a part of the masonry industry. Nagy’s slide show illustrated the history of the profession, using his unique, all-brick residence for examples.
SkillsUSA helps students discover and advance their career development. During the national SkillsUSA event, over 5,600 outstanding career and technical students joined the masons in hands-on competitions in 94 different trade, technical and leadership competitions.
The SkillsUSA organization represents over 330,000 students and instructors in 54 state and territorial associations. Over 59,000 volunteer hours were dedicated to the production of this year’s event which is booked in Kansas City through 2014.
About the Author
Bryan Light is the Technical Services Director at the Brick Industry Association (BIA). Bryan has worked in the masonry industry since 1964 and joined the staff at BIA in October of 1999. He is a Gold member of the Building Officials of Georgia, and a member of the Metro Atlanta Inspectors Association. Bryan has served as the Chairman of the National SkillsUSA Masonry Technical Committee, overseeing the annual contest for secondary and post-secondary masonry students.