National Contest Validates Training, Development
Results of the 2009 SkillsUSA masonry competitions
The noise of power hammers, saws and drills filled the H. Roe Bartle Exhibition Hall as power equipment technicians, carpenters and cabinetmakers worked to complete their projects. Nearby, 45 masons-to-be quietly slung their mud; laid their block and brick; and tapped them into position. For up to six hours, each contestant in the national masonry championships strove to build the best composite project of block and brick according to plans distributed the previous day.
The Masonry contest was part of the 45nd annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference held in Kansas City, Mo., on June 25. The following evening, the awards ceremony was held at Kemper Arena in front of a crowd estimated at over 15,000.
The 2009 winner of the post secondary/college competition is Bradley Wright, 19, from Wallace Community College in Selma, Ala. Wright was the 2008 winner of the secondary/high school division and the third place finisher in the 2007 contest. Wright's instructor is Kenny Allen.
The 2009 winner of the secondary / high school competition is Jared Gandy, 18, from Mount Pleasant High School in Mt. Pleasant, N.C. Gandy's instructor is Ryan Shaver.
Student interest in masonry vocational training continues to be strong. This year 30 high school and 15 post secondary / college contestants from 34 states competed in two classes of competition. The students had been winners of their own state or regional event.
In Kansas City, they competed against the clock and against themselves 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.
"Members of the Masonry Technical Committee who where present at the contest all had previous experience with the masonry contest and agreed that the level of the workmanship throughout the competitors was the highest it's ever been," reported Masonry Technical Committee Chairman Bryan Light. "In the near future, we will need these well-trained masons to take the lead in the recovery of our industry."
Trade professionals from Bricklayers Local #15 and selected vocational instructors judged the projects by taking extensive measurements, measuring plumb at six locations, and judging finishing techniques and overall appearance.
Light, of Brick SouthEast, a Brick Industry Association affiliate, says, "Industry support for this annual trade competition remains superb. Even during the economically challenging times that we are experiencing this year, our sponsors have been fantastic. This year's contest was a good reminder that we shall never take our donors and sponsors for granted!"
Light continued, "I want to particularly thank Evan Schnegelberger of Kansas City Brick and Cloud Ceramics for donating the brick used in the competition. Justin Meyer of Midwest Block & Brick arranged donation of block we used in the competition. Brad Smith of Miller Materials hosted an excellent plant tour for our students and instructors."
The Masonry Technical Committee's other sustaining members and sponsors of the contest include Bon Tool Co., Brick Industry Association national office and SE Region, EZ Grout Corporation, Hanley-Wood LLC, LaFarge, Marshalltown Co., Mason Contractors Association of America, Masonry Institute of Tennessee, National Concrete Masonry Association, Portland Cement Association, and Spec Mix.
"Our sustaining members and sponsors of the contest made donations of materials, the time of their employees and significant cash donations that are very important to the operation of this contest," says Light.
And, as has been the case for many years, SPEC MIX, Inc. salesmen were "slingin' their mud," (labor and materials donated, of course) in support of the aspiring masons.
Another highlight of the three-day conclave included a luncheon in honor of the contestants and their instructors. The guest speaker was Bill Kjorlien of LaFarge NA/US East Business Unit, a former mason and former chairman of the Masonry Technical Committee. Kjorlein spoke to the contestants about the pride they should take in "building monuments that last."
During the SkillsUSA event, over 5,200 outstanding career and technical students competed in 91 different trade, technical and leadership competitions. Utilizing space equivalent to 16 football fields, contestants effectively demonstrated their expertise in the occupational skills required for such trades as electronics, technical drafting, precision machining, carpentry and masonry.
The SkillsUSA organization represents 300,000 students and instructors in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. The event is booked in Kansas City through 2014.
2009 Post Secondary Competition WinnersFirst Place: Bradley Wright, 19
Wallace Community College, Selma, AL
Second Place: Michael Shrode, 21
Alexandria Technical College, Alexandria, Minn.
Third Place: Matthew Walztoni, 24
Kirkwood College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
2009 High School (Secondary) Competition WinnersFirst Place: Jared Gandy, 19
Mt. Pleasant High School, Mt. Pleasant, NC
Second Place: Nate Rader, 19
Pioneer Career Technical Center, Shelby, Ohio
Third Place: Joey O'Connor, 19
Dekalb County Technology Center, Rainsville, Ala.
About the Author
J. David Holt, freelance writer and owner of Holt Marketing Group Inc., has been reporting on the SkillsUSA National Masonry Contest since 1994.