MCAA Zeros in on Recruitment and Training
By Kate Parrott
Recruitment and promotion has long been a vital task of the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA). As the only national association representing all of the industry's mason contractors, the MCAA has focused much of its attention on the development of programs that will build the availability of a strong labor force.
MCAA's Fastest Trowel on the Block and the International Masonry Skills Challenge were developed years ago to focus the attention of the industry's mason contractors on the need and benefits of recruitment and training. For the past two years, The QUIKRETE® Companies™ has been the lead sponsor of the national competitions in Chicago and Las Vegas. These competitions have become highly successful in challenging the industry's contractors to become involved at the local level to help recruit, train and employ apprentices. While other contests only serve the private interests of for-profit entities, MCAA's national contests serve the long-term interests of the industry and masons' futures.
"I believe that showcasing our most highly skilled trainees and bricklaying teams will draw attention to our industry and the pride that it instills in it's workers," said Paul Hoggatt of Hoggatt LP. "By displaying this to the public, we are marketing our industry to future potential workers and parents of potential workers."
Joel Guth of Masonry Technology, Inc. agreed that the MCAA's national contests are vital to the promotion and reputation of the industry. "I absolutely believe it has a positive effect," he said. "I see it raising the skill and performance standards of individual masons and raising the quality of finished work."
"The skilled workforce in the masonry industry is growing older and is not increasing as fast as the demand for those skills," Hoggatt said. "Although there are many good training programs around the country capable of training more students, it has become more difficult to attract youth to our industry. We in the masonry industry need to change our present image to one that will be far more attractive to the youth of our country. We need to instill pride back into our industry."
While Hoggatt is correct in his concern for the need for preparation of the next generation of skilled workers, there are no quick fixes or short-cuts to building a strong labor force. It takes a coordinated and consistent effort between national and local associations working together to provide enthusiastic recruiting, quality curricula and inspirational instruction; this is the role of the industry's associations.
The International Masonry Skills Challenge is a competition of masonry apprentices in first-, second- and third-year skill levels. The contest is a showcase for skills training in the masonry industry, challenging winning apprentices from regional U.S. and foreign competitions to determine the top masonry apprentice at each level. This exciting competition spotlights the masonry industry's finest young masons and focuses attention on careers in the masonry industry.
"Showcasing our brightest and best is a great way to attract young people and their parents to masonry careers," said Lynn Nash of the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association, Inc. "Successfully competing in these contests provides a sense of accomplishment, which is good for morale."
Watch as the top apprentices from across the country compete against each other to win the honor of "Best Masonry Apprentice."
Contestants are divided by experience level: "First Years," who are just entering the trade, through "Third Years," who are just about to enter the workforce as skilled masons. Each level is given a project to build appropriate to their know-how.
The catch? The projects are a complete surprise!
Contestants must build their project without ever having seen the drawings. They haven't been able to practice, and they can't consult their instructor, employer or anyone else during the competition. They have three hours to complete their projects with the given materials.
Awards are presented to the top three apprentices in each skill level. Come and see who wins tops honors this year!
How Contestants are Judged
The Mason Contractors Association of America provides judges for the competition through the instructors subcommittee of MCAA. Contestants must be able to demonstrate skills appropriate for the level in which they are competing.
The completed contestant projects are judged on 10 categories, for a total of 200 possible points.
How to Enter the Next Masonry Skills Challenge
Each year, nine regional contests are held to determine who will represent each region at the national Masonry Skills Challenge, held annually at MCAA's Masonry Showcase. Apprentices are invited to compete in a regional contest to earn the right to take on the nation's best apprentices. To find out the date and location of the next contest in your area, call the MCAA at 800-536-2225.
The Fastest Trowel on the Block competition, hosted by the MCAA and sponsored by QUIKRETE, is a showcase of industry craftsmanship and a testament of both the speed and skill of our industry's workforce. Only those masons who have the skill, confidence and courage to face-off with the industry's best are invited to compete. This is a contest that also proves how important teamwork is in accomplishing a final product.
"The Fastest Trowel contest gives the journeyman masons a chance to see how they compare to other masons around the country," said Jeff Jenkins of Jenkins Masonry, Inc.
Guth said that the event is an opportune time to bring members of the industry together. "It's a great event to bring everyone together from concrete block producers, apprenticeship schools, material and equipment suppliers, mason contractors and their employees," he said. "These gatherings build enthusiasm for the masonry industry at all levels, especially if you are someone considering masonry as a viable career."
The competition pits journeyman masons, accompanied by their two favorite tenders, against one another in a show of both speed and craftsmanship. Each contestant's goal is to complete as much of an 18-block-long wall as possible, using 8"x8"x16" CMU and the provided mortar in a 20-minute dash. Contestants must have a high degree of workmanship using normal masonry practices and hand tools.
The Heat is On
The 20-minute contest clock starts. Each contestant is provided with 180 standard, lightweight concrete masonry units. Contestants are given no more than five stacks of block, while mortar is available from no more than four spot boards. Each contestant is allowed two tenders, but any assistance from these tenders in placing block in the wall, transferring mortar to the wall, applying mortar to the blocks, or handling the blocks from the stacks to the mason will result in disqualification for the team. Once the mason has touched a block, the tenders cannot touch the block again. Tenders may keep the mortarboards full, but cannot touch any of the mason's tools such as levels, lines or pins. The wall must be cut flush on both sides prior to laying the next course. The masons will lay as many 24-foot courses as possible, but at the end of 20 minutes, they must stop laying block.
How to Enter the Next Fastest Trowel Contest
There are two ways to enter the Fastest Trowel contest. Several local Fastest Trowel contests occur each year, and the winners are automatically entered to compete at the national contest. Or you can seek an application for one of the remaining slots in which to compete.
If you think that you are good enough and want to take on the nation's fastest trowels, call the MCAA at 800-536-2225.
About the Author
Kate Parrott was a Managing Editor at Lionheart Publishing including Assistant Editor for Masonry magazine.