Companies and organizations of the masonry industry joined together June 25 - 27, 2014, to support the 50th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference and the National Masonry Contest.
For up to six hours, 52 young masons from 36 states competed at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo. Each contestant, using brick, block and mortar, tried to construct the winning project by placing the masonry materials, according to plans, on a concrete block base.
The 2014 winner of the secondary / high school competition was Samuel McSherry from the Burton Center for Arts and Technology, Salem, Va. The 2014 winner of the post-secondary / college competition was Daniel Furr of Mount Pleasant High School, Mt. Pleasant, NC.
The masonry programs or schools of each first-place winner received a $1,500 scholarship check from Spec Mix. All six medal winners won tools from Bon Tool, tools and engraved trowels from Marshalltown, construction calculators, boots and various electronic devices that were donated by supportive contest sponsors.
Masonry competitors were part of over 6,100 students who competed in 100 different trade, technical and leadership fields. The contestants demonstrated their expertise in the occupational skills required for such trades as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, carpentry, plumbing and masonry.
The awards ceremony was held at Kemper Arena in front of a crowd of over 15,000 on the final evening. Mike Rowe, best-known as the host of the television series “Dirty Jobs,” was presented with SkillsUSA’s Torch Carrier Award for his personal efforts in promoting the mission of SkillsUSA. (Masonry Technical Committee Chair, Bryan Light, received this same award last year.) While on-stage, Rowe taped the lead-in to a “Dirty Jobs” episode which will air on CNN. In that segment, Rowe highlights the need for vocational technical training in America.
Student interest in masonry vocational training continues to be strong. This year’s competitors were 33 high school and 19 post-secondary / college contestants. 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 this ancient profession. The contest consisted of a written test followed by the construction of a brick and block composite project. Test and production competencies were set by the masonry industry.
The project for this year’s contest was designed by Bryan Light to test the production skills needed for successful entry into the masonry profession. The design included 26 CMUs (concrete block) in three different sizes and 105 modular and uncored modular brick.
Judging of the projects was done by trade professionals from Bricklayers Local #15, members of the National Education Team, and selected vocational instructors. They judged the projects by taking extensive measurements, measuring plumb at six locations, and judging finishing techniques and overall appearance.
Bryan Light of Brick SouthEast, a Brick Industry Association affiliate, has served as chairman of the technical committee since 2003. Light was complimentary in his appreciation of other supporters.
“Our industry’s support of this competition continues to be exemplary,” says Light. “Everyone involved understands the importance of technical training for the proper use of their products, each of which contributes to excellence in finished brick and block projects.”
Members of the National Masonry Technical Committee and other sustaining members and sponsors of the contest include Brick Industry Association SE Region; Argos USA, Bon Tool Co.; Brick Industry Association; Marshalltown Co.; Mason Contractors Association of America; Masonry Institute of Tennessee; Multiquip Corporation, National Concrete Masonry Association; NCCER, Oldcastle Architectural, and Spec Mix.
This year’s contestant was supported by donations of block from Midwest Block & Brick, mortar from Spec Mix, mortar mixing equipment from Multiquip, and brick from Oldcastle Architectural. Spec Mix salesmen from around the country were "slingin' their mud," donated of course, in support of the contest. Other companies supporting the contest were Lowes and Calculated Industries.
Other highlights of the annual gathering of masonry companies, organizations, instructors and students included a field trip to a local block plant arranged by NCMA representatives Dennis Graber and Mark Wilhelms. The tour was followed by a luncheon in honor of the contestants and their instructors.
Mark Kemp, chairman of the board of directors of MCAA, was the luncheon keynote speaker. Kemp encouraged the young masons with a motivating talk he referred to as Struggles + Effort + Success.
Originally known as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA), SkillsUSA was established in 1965. Masonry was added to the National VICA Conference in 1969.
The SkillsUSA organization represents over 350,000 students and instructors from 13,000 school chapters in 54 states and territories. Ironically, the 50th annual event marks the last time it was held in Kansas City. The 2015 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference will be held in Louisville, Ky.
2014 National Masonry Contest Winners
Post Secondary Competition (College)
First Place: Daniel Furr, Mount Pleasant High School, Mt. Pleasant, N.C.
Second Place: David Puga Arce, Arizona Masonry Contractors Association, Phoenix, Ariz.
Third Place: Brandon S. Gain, 30, The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, Media, Pa.
Secondary Competition (High School)
First Place: Samuel McSherry, Burton Center for Arts & Technology, Salem, Va.
Second Place: Dakota Claypool, Academy of Careers and Technology, Beckley, W.Va.
Third Place: Ty Isbell, Dekalb County Technology Center, Rainsville, Ala.