Companies and organizations of the masonry industry joined together June 25 - 29 to support the 43rd annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference and the National Masonry Contest in Kansas City, Mo. For up to six hours, 48 young masons from 36 states used block, brick, and mortar to build the contest's project.

The 2007 winner of the post-secondary/college competition was Michael Wagner, 22, from The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, Media, Pa. Wagner's instructor is Daniel L. Hiltebeitel. The 2007 winner of the secondary/high school competition was Marcus G. Hefner, 19, from West Stanley High School, Oakboro, N.C. Hefner's instructor is Timothy Kidd.

The photo shows the top three finishers in each of the two categories, plus members of the Masonry Technical Committee. The red-jacketed winners of the secondary division in the front row were (from left) Jared Braveboy (second place), Lake City High School, Lake City, S.C.; Marcus Hefner; and Bradley V. Wright (third place), Earnest Pruett Center of Technology, Hollywood, Ala.

The post-secondary division winners in the second row were (from left) Travis Greenly (second place), Central Cabarrus High School, Concord, N.C.; Michael Wagner; and Christian Cruz (third place), Alfred State, SUNY College of Technology, Wellsville, N.Y.

Members of the Masonry Technical Committee included (from left) Kellie Hala, Marshalltown Co.; Harry Junk, National Concrete Masonry Association; Bryan Light, Brick SouthEast and Chair of the Masonry Technical Committee; Bill Kjorlien, Masonry Tech Sales Manager, Lafarge North America and former Technical Committee Chair; and Al Herndon, Florida Masonry Apprentice and Education Foundation.

Gathering of the trades

Masonry competitors were part of over 5000 students from 84 different trade, technical, and leadership fields. The contestants effectively demonstrated their expertise in the occupational skills required for such trades as electronics, technical drafting, precision machining, carpentry, plumbing, and masonry. The awards ceremony was held at Kemper Arena in front of a crowd exceeding 15,000.

Student interest in masonry vocational training continues to be strong. This year, 31 high school and 17 post secondary/college contestants competed. To qualify, the students had been winners, or designated second place finishers, of their own state contests.

The students competed against the clock and themselves to demonstrate their expertise. The contest consisted of a written test and the construction of a brick and block composite project. Trade professionals from Bricklayers Local #15 and selected vocational instructors judged the projects by measuring plumb at six locations and checking finishing techniques and overall appearance.

Wide-ranging support

The project for this year's contest was designed by Bryan Light of Brick SouthEast, a Brick Industry Association affiliate who has served as chairman of the Technical Committee since September 2003. He explained that the project was intended to test the skills needed for successful entry into the masonry profession.

“The masonry industry's support of this competition remains fantastic,” said Light. “Everyone understands the importance of technical training in 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 included Brick SouthEast Inc., Bon Tool Co., Brick Industry Association, Hanley-Wood LLC, Marshalltown Co., Mason Contractors Association of America, Masonry Institute of Tennessee, National Concrete Masonry Association, Portland Cement Association, Spec Mix, and Wasco Inc.

Through the efforts of the National Concrete Masonry Association, this year's contestants were supported by donations of mortar from Spec Mix, brick from Yankee Hill Brick & Tile, and block from Midwest Block & Brick. The brick donation, as well as shipping, was coordinated by Kansas City Brick. Other organizations supporting the contest included Calculated Industries and Carhartt Inc.

At a luncheon honoring the contestants and their instructors, Bryan Light gave the keynote address titled, “I Built a Castle.” With nearly 100 project photos, Light showed the 20,000-sq-ft brick and stone house located south of Atlanta, Ga. He explained the intricacies of the massive project and talked about his pride in being the mason contractor on the five-year project that included over 300,000 brick, block, and stone

The SkillsUSA organization represents 284,000 students and instructors in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. The event is booked in Kansas City through 2014.