Success story: Stephen Benson
Student in the Spotlight
Stephen Benson wasn’t originally a fan of high school. In fact, he tried four before finding Center of Applied Technology-North (formerly North Arundel Vo-Tech), where he learned his life trade: masonry.
“I tried masonry on the fly, and I liked it,” Benson says. “I liked working with my hands.”
But, moreover, Benson says, he liked his instructor, Curtis Hoover. And as many know, a good instructor can make all the difference in a young person’s life.
“Curtis gave me a chance other teachers didn’t give me,” Benson says. “He showed respect, when others didn’t care. So, I gave him all the respect in the world, and I paid attention.”
Benson says Hoover has a good knack for identifying when a student has an outside issue, paying extra attention and extending additional effort to the kids who need it.
“He goes above and beyond to help his students,” Benson says. “Curtis is like a second father to me now. We hunt and spend time together.”
Before Benson even had a license, he helped Hoover on the weekends with side jobs. Eventually, he began doing concrete work, but he never stopped working on the side with Hoover. For two years, Benson worked as a stone mason on a $28 million residential home.
Benson later found himself with three side jobs, and decided to combine his efforts into one business for himself: All Ready Finished Concrete and Masonry. He has owned the business for eight years and employs five people, including his superintendent, Jason, who is a friend from his vo-tech days.
Benson has a method that seems to make working for him a foolproof exercise. He provides everything: the trucks, the tools, the skid steers – everything. All a worker has to do is show up on time, and he is set with a job that offers 40 to 50 hours per week – and Benson’s crew works in the rain.
Benson is only 30, but he grew up in an environment with a strong work ethic. It has shaped his success today.
“I grew up rebuilding churches in the summer with my dad, and there were no excuses,” he says. “I try to teach my young workers life lessons and look at my guys like family, instead of employees.”
Skills can be taught. Work ethic can be a little more difficult to teach later in life, if it’s not already instilled, Benson says.
Benson can attest that college isn’t for everyone, and he knows firsthand that he is a hands-on guy, rather than a “classroom” type. Demonstrate to him, and he can excel.
Some people are meant for masonry. Just ask the guy who gives his employees paid time off and Red Wing boots for Christmas.
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.