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March 21, 2016 2:00 PM CDT

Success story: Miguel Gonzalez

Student in the Spotlight


Miguel Gonzalez needed an elective in high school. He chose masonry – knowing nothing about the trade – and he loved it. Like many masons, Gonzalez likes working with his hands, and masonry was a natural fit.

Gonzalez’s high school instructor noticed the rapid pace at which he picked up masonry skills. He encouraged Gonzalez to compete in the Bob Freeman Most Accurate Trowel competition, which he won twice. He later competed as a third-year apprentice in the MCAA Masonry Skills Challenge, winning second place.

Gonzalez credits much of his success to the Masonry Industry Training Association’s bricklayer/mason apprenticeship program.

“The program showed me the ropes of how to become a journeyman,” Gonzalez says. “It provided everything I needed. My instructor, Kennie Ott, was extremely helpful. He explained things in detail until you got it.”

Gonzalez credits his program director, Lyn Oleson, with enrolling him in jobs, so he could work: “When I was out of work, she referred me to another company. She was on top of things and kept up with my school hours and on-the-job training hours.”

After his apprenticeship, Gonzalez became a journeyman and, today, works for Nibbelink Masonry Construction Corp. in Lancaster, Calif.

Gonzalez’s love of working with his hands makes the masonry professional a great fit for him, but it’s not the only thing he likes about the profession.

“Working with rest of the crew members, they see masonry as a prideful trade,” he says. “I enjoy that, because I have pride in it, too. I believe it’s one of the most artistic trades. It stays forever. Cathedrals are built from it, and pyramids are the basics of masonry.”

Gonzalez also feels a sense of accomplishment when he can drive his family by one of the buildings he worked on.

“It’s a given that masonry is a hard trade, but it’s very rewarding,” he says. “I wouldn’t switch this trade for any other.”

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.


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