Louisville will again serve as the site of this year’s National Leadership and Skills Conference hosted by SkillsUSA. Designed to highlight and encourage the talented young men and women pursuing careers in the trades, this showcase of technical education aims to counter the “college for all” rally cry that has taken over many high schools across the country.

By actively demonstrating the quality of the up-and-coming skilled workforce through a combination of “citizenship, leadership, employability, technical and professional skills training,” the upcoming generations can have a firsthand look at the expanded career opportunities available to them. Over 16,000 people are again expected to attend this event, with everyone from students, instructors, and business partners making their presence known during the week’s events.

Prior to the SkillsUSA Championships, which take place on Wednesday and Thursday, delegate sessions for everyone from middle-school to college/postsecondary students are run by the national officers. These sessions allow for the organization’s official business to be conducted, elect student leaders, and recognize state association voting delegates.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the SkillsUSA Championships will be held. Over 6,000 students, who have won a state contest, will go toe-to-toe in over 100 different technical, trade, and leadership fields. Among the competitions will be the Masonry competition. Sponsored by NCCER and the MCAA, high school and post-secondary students enrolled in technical programs across the country face off. The primary goal is for students to demonstrate their proficiency in entry-level performance within the field.

Prior to laying the block and brick, competitors will be required to complete a written exam. Then, they will be given plans and asked to construct the project. A technical committee, made up of established members of the industry, designed the projects that the contestants will work on. A national education team also assists the Masonry technical committee. Detail drawings will be handed out during lunch the day before the competition.

Last year, nearly 40 contestants took on the six-hour challenge. Working quickly is not the primary focus of the competition, as safety and quality are given precedence. Winners will be determined using the same criteria as last year — a combination of their respective performances on the written exam along with their finished projects. Each completed build will be judged by a group of journey-level masonry professionals.

At the awards ceremony, Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals will be awarded to the top three finishers in the competition. Everyone who placed will receive a prize package made up of both monetary and sponsor prizes to help them advance their respective paths within the masonry field.

About SkillsUSA — SkillsUSA is the national organization for students in trade, industrial, technical and health occupational 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.

 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 www.nccer.orgor contact NCCER customer service at 888.622.3720.

Words: Masonry Magazine
Photos: Bruce Starrenburg