The Mortar Has Set On The 2017 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference

Words: Louisville, Kentucky served as host for the 53rd annual National Leadership and Skills Conference put on by SkillsUSA. Designed to increase the quality of our nation’s skilled workforce with a combination of “citizenship, leadership, employability, technical and professional skills training,” it works to create a strong upcoming generation of our workforce. Over 16,000 attended the show. Among them were students, instructors, and partners in the business world. Friends of Masonry, Dean Marsico and Derek Stearns were the guest speakers who spoke during Wednesday’s lunch about their careers in masonry. As a prelude to the competition day, they motivated and encouraged the next phase of those who would be entering the industry. On Wednesday and Thursday of the conference, the Championships were held in a variety of trades. One of the most exciting and technical events however, was the Masonry competition. Sponsored by NCCER for the eighth year, the competitions put high school and post-secondary students enrolled in technical programs to the test for entry-level performance within the field. The contestants were required to complete a written exam prior to the competition, and then efficiently and effectively reconstruct a project based off of a plan. A technical committee made up of respected members of the industry, designed the project that the contestants would ultimately complete. Members of the 2017 national technical committee for masonry included Bryan Light of Brick Industry Association; Dan Belcher of NCCER; Nick Blohowiak of SPEC MIX, Inc.; John Bongiovanni of Bon Tool Co.; Jeff Buczkiewicz of Mason Contractors Association of America; Brian Carney of SPEC MIX, Inc.; Rolly Cox of Multiquip Corp.; Jason Thompson of National Concrete Masonry Association; Kim Haley of Marshalltown Co.; Peter Kiley of Oldcastle Architectural; Ray Leonhard of Brick Industry Association; and Bob Melton of Masonry Institute of Tennessee. A national education team assisted the masonry national technical committee. Members included Al Herndon of Florida Masonry Apprentice & Educational Foundation; Todd Larson of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College; Richard McKnight; and Richard Nagy.   Nearly 40 contestants took part in the six-hour masonry competition, and each built a brick and block project set on a concrete block base. The details were based on the most commonly-used elements within residential construction. While working quickly was an element of the challenge, safety and quality are also stressed. The detail drawings were handed out at the previous day’s lunch, and competitors were expected to adhere to the plans as closely as possible. Winners were determined by a combination of their respective performances on the written exam along with their finished projects. A judging panel made up of journey-level masonry professionals were assigned to review each completed built. Gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded to the top three finishers in the competition. Taking gold was Kelby Thornton of Concord, North Carolina. Snagging the silver medal was Elijah Williams of Mount Jackson, Virginia. In the bronze medal position was Cole Christadore of Danielson, Connecticut. All those who placed received a prize package made up of checks and sponsor items to be used in their careers within the field. Financial supporters and prize donors of this year’s competition included: Argos Masonry Cement; Associated Builders and Contractors; Associated General Contractors of America; Bahco; Bon Tool Company; Brick Industry Association – Southeast Region; Build Your Future; Calculated Industries; Cianbro; ClarkDietrich Building Systems; Crossland Construction Company; DEWALT; Empire; Fein Tools; Fluor; Green Apple Labs; The Haskell Company; Irwin Tools; ISN; Klein Tools; Marek Brothers Systems; Marshalltown Company; Mason Contractors Association of America; McCarthy; Milwaukee; Morton Buildings; Multiquip Corporation; Nabholz; National Concrete Masonry Association; NAWIC Education Foundation; North American Crane Bureau; Oldcastle Architectural; Pearson; Prov; S&B Engineers and Constructors; Snap-on; SPEC MIX, Inc.; Stiletto; TIC-The Industrial Company; Yates.
About SkillsUSA – SkillsUSA is the national organization for students in trade, industrial, technical and health occupations education. It sponsors the SkillsUSA Championships annually to recognize the achievements of career and technical education students and to encourage them to strive for excellence and pride in their chosen occupations. Visit to learn more.
About NCCER — NCCER is a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) education foundation created by the construction industry to develop standardized curriculum with portable credentials and to help address the skilled, construction workforce shortage. NCCER is recognized by the industry as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for the construction and maintenance craft professional. For more information, visit or contact NCCER customer service at 888.622.3720.
Words: Masonry Magazine Photos: Bruce Starrenburg
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