National contest supports masonry skills training, development
Making the Grade
Companies and organizations of the masonry industry joined together in June to support the 49th Annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference and the National Masonry Contest.
For up to six hours, 46 young masons from 33 states competed at H. Roe Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo. Each contestant, using three types of block and three types of brick, tried to construct the winning project by placing the masonry materials and mortar exactly in accordance with the plans.
The 2013 winner of the post secondary/college competition was Brent Austin, 20, from Central Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C. Austin’s instructor is Todd Hartsell. The 2013 winner of the secondary/high school competition was Andrew Mullis, 18, from South Rowan High School in China Grove, N.C. Mullis’ instructor is Rodney Harrison.
Each first-place winner received a $1,500 scholarship check from Spec Mix. All six medal winners won tools, engraved trowels, boots, computers and digital cameras – all donated by supportive contest sponsors.
Masonry competitors were part of more than 6,000 students who competed in 104 different career trade, technical and leadership fields. All of them state contest winners, the contestants effectively demonstrated their expertise in the occupational skills required for such trades as electronics, computer-aided drafting, culinary arts, carpentry, plumbing and masonry.
During the final evening, the awards ceremony was held at Kemper Arena in front of a crowd of more than 15,000.
Student interest in masonry vocational training continues to be strong. This year, 31 high school and 15 post secondary/college contestants competed in two divisions. To qualify, the students had been winners, or designated second-place finishers, of their own state contests. They competed against the clock and against themselves to demonstrate their expertise in masonry.
The contest consisted of a written test and the construction of a brick-and-block composite project. The project for the contest was designed by Bryan Light of Brick Industry Association, SE Region, to test the skills needed for successful entry into the masonry profession. Bryan Light has served as chairman of the technical committee since September 2003.
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.
New members of the National Masonry Technical Committee and welcomed sponsors of the contest were NCCER and Oldcastle Architectural. The sustaining members and sponsors of the contest included Argos USA, Bon Tool Co., Brick Industry Association, BIA SouthEast Region, EZ Grout Corp., Marshalltown Trowel Co., Mason Contractors Association of America, Multiquip, National Concrete Masonry Association, and Spec Mix.
This year’s contestants were supported by donations of mortar from Spec Mix. The donation of the mortar machine, mud tubs, and the mixing of the mortar was organized and supervised by Rolly Cox of Multiquip. The brick donation, as well as shipping, was coordinated this year by Peter Kiley of Oldcastle Architectural through its local affiliate, Glen-Gery Brick. The block for the contest was donated by Midwest Block & Brick. The company hosted a field trip to a local block plant arranged by NCMA representative Dennis Graber. The tour was followed by a luncheon in honor of the contestants and their instructors.
At the luncheon, Steve Green, VP of the National Center for Construction Education and Research, spoke to the contestants. He explained the role of NCCER as an accreditation body to certify instructors. He then explained and documented the increasing value of trade and vocational careers versus the skyrocketing cost of many college-educated careers and predicted that masonry employment would grow 40 percent in the next eight years.
SkillsUSA represents nearly 300,000 students and instructors in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. The annual event attracts approximately 15,000 students, parents, instructors and business partners. The organization will return to Kansas City in 2014 for the 21st time.
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.