North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association 2022 Update


Words and Photos: NCMCA 

Because of COVID-19 precautions, the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association (NCMCA) continued to experience curtailed activities in 2021. However, by any measure, it was a successful year.

The 2018 revitalization of NCMCA’s workforce development efforts with the addition of Ryan Shaver to the NCMCA staff devoted to full-time workforce development and training has exceeded expectations. With Ryan’s expertise and experience, NCMCA has become a valuable, recognized, and sought-after ally to the state’s construction vocational programs and for the teachers who instruct those classes.  

NCMCA has become the go-to source for recruiting masonry instructors, training masonry instructors, and mentoring them in the classroom. NCMCA’s work in North Carolina schools gained momentum in 2021 despite the inconveniences of COVID-19 restrictions.

In 2018, NCMCA developed a Masonry Pre-Apprentice Program for high school-aged students allowing young people to work for NCMCA mason contractors and earn high school credit for doing so.  The program has been successful but the guaranteed $12 an hour wage, which was so appealing at the beginning, lost a lot of that appeal as the craziness of the last year has driven wages higher and higher. 

Still, students are interested and the mason contractors who are participating in the program have pushed the starting wage beyond the required minimum to reflect the realities of the time. The NCMCA Pre-Apprentice Program remains the only such trade association program in the state.  

In addition to NCMCA support of the state's some 100 high school masonry programs, Ryan began a new initiative in 2021 to train the potential apprentices of NCMCA member firms.  Member firms identify employees with the aptitude, ambition, and, desire, which allows them to participate on company time for hands-on training sessions that Ryan organizes several times a year around the state.  

Participants from area member companies gather at a central location for a full morning of personal instruction on trowel technique, tool manipulation, and general masonry skills. Ryan follows up with the employers to monitor the Program participants’ progress and encourages both the employers and employee trainees to obtain full apprenticeship status. The enthusiasm demonstrated by the young participants for this program is remarkable and encouraging for the industry.

Contestants and committee members gather for a picture just prior to the NCMCA Annual Samuel A. McGee Memorial Masonry Apprentice Skills Contest in May.  Photo by NCMCA

Ryan says, “Our whole masonry industry in North Carolina has taken the workforce initiative very seriously, and I'm the lucky one that gets to push it forward daily!”

After a year’s absence for most such events, many North Carolina masonry competitions resumed in 2021. In May, one of the nation’s premier, and certainly one of the most difficult, apprentice competitions played before a huge crowd in Midland, North Carolina.  Some 50 apprentices participated in NCMCA’s Annual Samuel A. McGee Memorial Masonry Apprentice Skills Contest. Named for MCAA Hall-of-Famer Sam McGee, the contest participants have two hours to construct a pre-determined project that would ordinarily be a three-hour project.  

Grant Helms of Helms Masonry won the 2021 Sam McGee Contest and went on to win the June 2021 MCAA Skills Challenge, Third Year Division, in Las Vegas.  The second-place finisher in the 2021 McGee Contest, Mason Saunders of Huntley Brothers Company, won the October 66th Annual North Carolina State Fair Masonry Apprentice Skills Contest (a three-hour project,), which qualified Mason to represent North Carolina in the 2022 MCAA Las Vegas Skills Competition. 

He won the Second Year Division in January. Both Saunders and Helms are past National SkillsUSA Masonry Champions and are among the students that, over the years, have helped North Carolina maintain its status of holding more national masonry medals than any other state.

Every year, the NCMCA Metrolina Chapter (Greater Charlotte) hosts recent masonry completion winners and their families for dinner and recognition.  Among the dignitaries participating this past fall were MCAA Chairman Paul Oldham (left) and NC Eighth District Congressman Richard Hudson (right) with the 2021 NC State Fair Masonry Contest Champion Mason Saunders.  Photo by NCMCA

North Carolina SkillsUSA masonry competitions, both regional and state, are among the largest and most competitive in the nation. While there were some attempts at virtual and “distanced” contests in the last two years, high school masonry competitions in North Carolina have been on a decline during the time of COVID-19. NCMCA has worked with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and local masonry instructors to help keep students engaged, but it has been a challenge.  

Contestants participate in the 66th Annual North Carolina State Fair Masonry Apprentice Skills Contest in October at Raleigh.  Photo by NCMCA

One student event that did take place in 2021 was the Fifth Annual Masonry Education Day in October. Hundreds of masonry students from across the state gathered at Stalite’s Ben Ketchie Park in Gold Hill for hands-on demonstrations, a chance to meet potential employers, and to enjoy masonry competitions, including the SPEC MIX Jr. Bricklayer featuring their classmates. Students witnessed the Carolina Qualifier for the SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500, which was the highlight of the day.  

The good news is that school competitions, perhaps with some allowances for COVID-19, are on track to resume this spring. More than 100 masonry students along with 1,000 vocational students of every sort will participate in the April North Carolina SkillsUSA State Conference in Greensboro, as well as several regional masonry competitions around the state.

Leslie Maldonado (left) and Annayeli Dionisio of Columbus College & Career Academy were among the participants in the SPEC MIX Jr. Bricklayer competition at North Carolina “Masonry Education Day” in October at Stalite’s “Ben Ketchie Park” in Gold Hill, NC.  Photo by Judy Johnson      

Masonry competitions of every sort are a proud tradition in North Carolina, bringing the industry together for fellowship and to showcase the craft for young people and for the community. Apprentice competitions create friendly rivalries for NCMCA masonry firms.  In many North Carolina high schools, competitive masonry ranks right along with other more traditional high school sports when it comes to school pride and bragging rights.  

The day he was hired, Ryan told us he wanted a mobile training unit. It took a couple of years, but in 2021, NCMCA purchased and outfitted a sixteen-foot enclosed self-contained mobile training trailer unit. It is equipped with tools, a generator, an electric mixer, a training rack, and everything else needed to take masonry training on the road.  

 In 2021, NCMCA purchased and outfitted a new mobile training unit for taking masonry instruction and recruiting on the road.  Photo by NCMCA

NCMCA received so many “in-kind” donations for the trailer that we have begun to wonder if the trailer we purchased is big enough! The trailer has already accumulated thousands of miles crisscrossing North Carolina and surrounding states.  

Workforce recruitment, development, and training have become the prime initiatives of NCMCA. Doing so is certainly self-serving for NCMCA members and the industry, but introducing masonry and construction skills to young people also serves a greater purpose in the community. NCMCA, and Ryan Shaver specifically, has a remarkable ability to connect with young people. 

The NCMCA Mobil Training unit and Ryan Shaver make a stop at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh for “Afternoon Masonry Club.”  NCMCA’s Raleigh Chapter meets regularly with students interested in masonry even though the school does not offer a masonry curriculum.  Photo by Macy Williams  

Often the young people he connects with are students who may not have ever been introduced to the great opportunities available in the construction trades had it not been for interaction with NCMCA and its members. Strong vocational training programs are a ticket to the successful middle-class lifestyle essential to strong communities. NCMCA President Danks Burton says, “In North Carolina, those programs are healthier than ever with every reason to believe they will continue to improve. NCMCA is dedicated to that mission.”

NCMCA has extended its reach beyond the Carolinas, hosting visitors from other states who come to exchange ideas for successful workforce development programs. NCMCA regularly shares NCMCA staff as they accept invitations from organizations in other states to visit and talk (and learn) about what’s working with recruitment and workforce development. In 2021, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio, and Texas were among the states that hosted Ryan.  

Ryan was a featured presenter at the Texas Masonry Council’s annual meeting, perhaps helping them to achieve their goal of ultimately exceeding (beating!) North Carolina’s success with masonry promotion, training, and recruitment. Ryan Shaver is a consultant for the MCAA Las Vegas Skills Challenge and serves as Co-Chairman for the SkillsUSA National Masonry Championship, this year in Atlanta.  

In 2021, Ryan began a nationwide effort to revitalize and revise the masonry training curriculum and credentialing, making it more in line with actual jobsite realities, and better recognized by mason contractors looking to hire participants in the programs.  The MCAA, The National Centers for Construction Education and Research (NCCER,) the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and other agencies have joined in the effort, which was presented at the MCAA Mid-Year meeting in Memphis.

NCMCA is pleased to be a strong supporter of MCAA and its programs. NCMCA and its members continue to be among the most generous supporters of the MCAA Masonry Foundation and we have loaned NCMCA Past Presidents Alan Griffin, Gary Joyner, Kent Huntley, and other NCMCA celebrities to serve in MCAA leadership roles, past and present.

The NCMCA Masonry Contractor Certification Program faced challenges with COVID-19 restrictions making “in-person” training classes difficult. In November, NCMCA partnered with the Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute (RMMI) for NCMCA’s first certification training module conducted online. Architectural firms regularly include NCMCA certification in specifications as a pre-qualifier for mason contractors. 

To date, some 700 individuals and 107 firms have participated in the certification classes.  31 firms have obtained certification and 325 individuals have earned personal certification.  Obtaining required continuing education to maintain certification status has proven to be an ongoing issue.  

Despite the challenges of the last two years, NCMCA membership has remained steady.  NCMCA maintains eight local chapters around the state, which has always been a unique feature and strength of the Association. COVID-19 greatly curtailed the activities of the local chapters, including their local monthly meetings, but again, there are signs normal activity is on the horizon. After a two-year absence, NCMCA will host its Annual Convention and Business Meeting in Greenville, South Carolina March 24 to March 27, 2022, it will be a great weekend of networking, fun, education, and fellowship.

As NCMCA celebrates its 48th year in 2022, the Association will experience changes and new opportunities. If past experience is any indication, the Association’s ongoing evolution will make it stronger and of even more benefit to the masonry industry, both in the Carolinas and nationwide.

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