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Making the Grade

Masonry Apprentice Elizabeth CleckleyThe Masonry Institute, coupled with the Mason Contractor's Association of America (MCAA), recently held its annual apprenticeship competition on Oct. 8.

This year, the event had 24 apprentices participate in the first, second and third year levels. But this article is about one specific participant. Let me first introduce "her" — yes, I said "her" — as a very focused, dedicated and determined young lady.

I had a chance to interview her for this article and would like to share with our industry a little closer look at some of the talent we have available to us for the future — trust me, this will be but one article on her future of successes.

Her name is Elizabeth Cleckley and she is 18 years old. She won first place in the first year apprenticeship category, and she performed her project to the exact specifications required and in record time. She also performed the task with 11 stitches in her hand, which she sliced open earlier in the week while cutting flashing on the job. Her performance was nothing short of impressive.

Elizabeth began in masonry at the Center of Applied Technologies North, located in the Baltimore area and is currently employed at Baltimore Masonry. Her boss, Victor Campetelli, and her former Vo Tech instructor, Curtis Hoover, were there to cheer her on.

When I asked her how she first got interested in masonry, she stated that she had always had a desire to see the results for her labor, and that interest was sparked and developed during an after-school trades program offered to her in the ninth grade. She continued her participation in these programs until 11th grade, where she was introduced to Hoover.

Hoover mentored, encouraged and befriended many of the students. In her words, he was "awesome" and helped her greatly throughout her Vo Tech training.

And Hoover couldn't be more proud. At the apprenticeship competition, he told me that she was one of the best students he had ever had the pleasure of teaching.

Now that she has joined the union bricklaying apprenticeship program she goes back to her Vo Tech center on rainy days sometimes to visit instructors and encourage others in the program.

One of the job sites that she has worked on with Baltimore Masonry is the Spinnaker Bay project, an 18-story condo. When she started the project, they were on the third floor; now, she rides by and it's completed. She feels a real sense of pride that she got to work on that project and see it finsihed. She is now working on a forensics lab being built in Maryland.

Elizabeth says that she has been treated very fairly on the job sites and the foremen have been more than willing to help her learn the correct methods of the trade. I am sure this is because she is a hard worker and is genuine in wanting to do the best she can.

On a personal note, I have to tell you, this young lady is an inspiration to me. I hear so many people say, "we can't get young people interested in the trades." Well, she is a fine example of how a good program and a dedicated instructor can hold promise for the future of our industry. We need more retiring masons to impart some of their knowledge and experience with these young people, many of whom really need a direction and someone to encourage them to explore the field of masonry.

Elizabeth will represent her area's first year apprentices in Las Vegas at MCAA's International Masonry Skills Challenge Competition during the Masonry Showcase in Las Vegas on March 30. Come be a part of the excitement and action as she — and dozens of other talented apprentices — takes the next step in her long, accomplished future in the masonry industry.



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