August 2012: Making the Grade


Making the Grade

The 48th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, a showcase of career and technical education students, was held June 23 – 27, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. On the last night, the awards ceremony was held at Kemper Arena in front of a crowd estimated at more than 15,000. The 2012 winner of the post secondary/college competition was Jordan R. Hartsell, Central Cabarrus High School, Concord, N.C. The winner of the secondary/high school competition was Michael Kern, Berks Career & Technical Center–East Campus, Oley, Pa.

Student interest in masonry vocational training continues to be strong. This year, 32 high school and 16 post secondary/college contestants from 34 states competed in two classes of competition. The student competitors had been winners of their own state or regional events.

In Kansas City, they competed for six hours in a contest that consisted of a written test and the construction of a brick-and-block composite project. The project was designed to test the skills needed for successful entry into the profession.

Judges took extensive measurements, measuring plumb at six locations, and judging finishing techniques and overall appearance.

Technical Committee Chair Bryan Light of Brick Industry Association – SE Region, said, “Industry support for this annual trade competition remains as it should be — fantastic.”

Other sustaining members of the national technical committee for the masonry contest include Nick Blohowiak, SPEC MIX Inc. (Wis.); John Bongiovanni, Bon Tool Co. (Pa.); Gregg Borchelt, Brick Industry Association (Va.); Pete Cieslak, Brick Industry Association SE Region (N.C.): Jeff Buczkiewicz, Mason Contractors Association of America (Ill.); Brian Carney, SPEC MIX Inc. (Minn.); Rolly Cox, Multiquip Corp. (Ohio); Dennis Graber, National Concrete Masonry Association (Va.), Kim Haley, Marshalltown Co. (Iowa); Bill Kjorlien, Argos USA (Ga.); and Bob Melton, Masonry Institute of Tennessee (Tenn.).

The national education team assists the national technical committee. Those members include Al Herndon, Florida Masonry Apprentice and Education Foundation (Fla.); Rich Nagy (Ohio); Todd Larson, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (Wis.); Billy Matkins, New Albany Schools (Miss.); and Richard McKnight, Hannah-Pamplico High School (S.C.).

This year’s 48 contestants were supported in their efforts by donations of mortar and scholarships from Spec Mix, brick from Yankee Hill, Lincoln, Neb., and block from Midwest Products. Tools were donated by Bon Tool Co., Marshalltown Co., and Smith Levels. Spec Mix salesmen from around the country were “slingin’ their mud” throughout the day in support of the aspiring masons.

Other supporting organizations included Lowe’s Companies Inc.; Calculated Industries Inc.; and Timberland PRO.

SkillsUSA helps students discover and advance their career development.  During the national SkillsUSA event, more than 5,600 outstanding career and technical students joined the masons in hands-on competitions in 94 different trade, technical and leadership competitions.

The SkillsUSA organization represents more than 330,000 students and instructors in 54 state and territorial associations. More than 59,000 volunteer hours were dedicated to the production of this year’s event, which is booked in Kansas City through 2014.

2012 National Brick Masonry Contest Winners

First Place: Jordan R. Hartsell, Central Cabarrus High School, Concord, N.C.; Instructor Todd Hartsell

Second Place: Drew Tersinar, Fort Scott Community College, Ft. Scott, Kan.; Instructor Nacoma Oehme

Third Place: Rody Feiler, Alexandria Technical & Community College, Alexandria, Minn.; Instructor David Malone

First Place: Michael Kern, Berks Career & Technical Center – East Campus, Oley, Pa.; Instructor Michael Kern

Second Place: McKenley McPeters, Pickens County Career and Technology Center, Liberty, S.C.; Instructor Jeff Stephens

Third Place: Jacob Fulford, Pedro Menendez High School, St. Augustine, Fla.; Instructor James Crutchfield

To learn more about the Masonry Technical Committee, contact Bryan Light at 770-760-0728 or To learn more about SkillsUSA go to

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