Success story: Michael Kern
Student in the Spotlight
Mike Kern is an admired instructor at Berks Career and Tech Center (BCTC), and he has mentored many a student to success along the way. Most interestingly has been his own son, Michael, who is an old pro at winning masonry contests and works as a skilled mason on the job today.
“We have help with training through the PCMA’s Masonry Instructors Association of PA (MIA),” says Mike Kern. “We have assistance in preparing for how skills competitions are judged and perfecting training techniques. And, we instructors are able to share best practices, which helps us in the classrooms. Therefore, it helps the students.”
Kern says businesses are involved in the MIA as well, which can show instructors what companies want. New products and techniques can be taught and incorporated into the program, for example, a new anchoring system for masonry might be introduced.
Mike Kern’s son, Michael, always worked with his father in the summers in both masonry and general construction, and he truly enjoyed it. He decided he should attend Berks Career and Technology Center to learn a skill before attending college – whether or not he ever used the skill.
As it turned out, college wouldn’t be a step in Michael’s path to prosperity. His journey began and ended with BCTC, where he honed the masonry skills he’d need for a career as a mason at Witmer Masonry.
Michael’s masonry journey began with several awards for his masonry prowess. He and his TeamWorks team won State during his sophomore year and took fifth place at Nationals. They won State again during his junior year and took first place at Nationals.
“When I was in 12th grade, I entered SkillsUSA on my own for masonry,” Michael says. “I had learned the ropes and knew I could approach the competition and make it work. I was able to plan out the project in my head and implement it.”
He took first place, and the rest is history. After graduation, Michael began working for Witmer Masonry. He started as a laborer and has worked his way up the ladder. He earned an apprenticeship title after 18 months, fully transitioning into a mason in about two years’ time.
Even with his father as his instructor, Michael had to learn, in addition to masonry skills, how to work and how to labor.
“There’s a lot to learn on jobsite, but I was well prepared,” he says. “I will pick up wisdom along the way.”
Michael Kern says he has a job he enjoys: “It’s hard work, but like my dad says, it’s like going out with a bunch of guys and putting a project together while having fun.”
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.