Words: Chris Parker and MASONRY Magazine
Photos: Chris Parker
Editor’s Note: MASONRY Magazine sat down with Chris Parker, 2022 SkillsUSA’s Level 2 1st Place Winner. Chris found his passion for masonry through his high school class and teacher. He continues to work in the industry and gain experience in his apprenticeship. We’d like to thank Chris for taking the time to talk with us and for Masonry Cosmetics sponsoring this series.
MASONRY Magazine: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Chris Parker: My name is Chris Parker. I’m 21 years old and from Tazewell, Tennessee. I work for Wasco Inc. out of Knoxville, Tennessee. Knoxville is about an hour drive from where I live, and we work in the surrounding areas, so a good part of my work day is the drive to get to and from work. I’ve been employed there full-time since I graduated high school.
M.M.: How did you start in the industry?
C.P.: I started out in masonry by taking a class in high school. It was a class I decided to take to pass the time, but it came to be something I started to enjoy. I had never thought of masonry as a career path for me, but my teacher Dustin Love really pushed me to learn more.
M.M.: What are some goals that you have for yourself?
C.P.: I do enjoy the work that I do now, but I hope to one day have the possibility of becoming a foreman. I also like the idea of possibly being a project manager. I would like to get the chance to be in a position where I could help bring in the work for the masons.
M.M.: Have you completed any apprenticeships or classes that stood out to you?
C.P: I am currently in my last year of an apprenticeship through Resource Valley Construction Training Council, INC., in Knoxville, Tennessee. The apprenticeship is a 3-year program. The apprenticeship consists of classes that I attend every Tuesday and one Thursday each month after work from 4:30-8:30. It is challenging at times coming to class after a long day of work knowing I would have to drive an hour back home to get ready for another early morning, but I always try to make the best of it.
M.M.: What was your experience winning the 2022 SkillsUSA Level 2 competition?
C.P.: I had competed back in high school in the level 1 competition, so I had somewhat of an idea of what the project would consist of. However, this time I really wanted to win. It was challenging as far as practicing projects because I only would have those few nights of class to practice reading the project sheet and laying it in a shorter amount of time. When it came time for the competition, I knew that I would need to be on top of my game. My main goal was to have the project done in 4 and a half hours instead of the 6 hours that were allotted so that I could have that hour and a half that was left to touch up the project where it was needed. I did end up completing the project in that timeframe I had set for myself. I was able to take the remaining time to clean up my project and try to make it as nice as possible to get the least amount of deductions. When the competition was over, I felt that I had laid a good project, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to secure that first-place spot.
When the time came for the announcing of the winners, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. The way it worked this year is if they called your name to the stage, you knew you were in the top three, but they didn’t tell you what place you were until you were on the stage. When I made it to the stage and heard them announce my name for the Gold medal, I was very excited. It felt like my hard work had finally paid off.
M.M.: What keeps you motivated in the industry?
C.P.: Everything changes from job to job. I personally like change when it comes to the job site. I like to learn new ways to complete tasks on the job. Each job has its own project and ways of doing things, so it keeps things fresh and interesting. There are plenty of opportunities in the masonry field, which helps me stay motivated.
M.M.: Have you been a part of any projects? If so, tell us about it.
C.P.: The first big job that I was on after I started at Wasco was Broadway Towers. It was a 12-story high building where we had to tear all utility-size brick out and replace them. This was my first time being on a commercial scale job, so there were a lot of things for me to learn. This is the job where I learned how to build hydro-mobiles, which is something I had never done. This job is where I learned that I liked the commercial side of masonry.
M.M.: Do you work in the masonry industry now? What does your daily routine look like?
C.P.: I do work in the masonry field now and have since I got out of high school. Here recently, the job I’m on is about an hour and 40 minutes away from my house. We have been starting at six each morning since the summer months here in East Tennessee are hot and humid. I am typically up and gone from the house by 3:45. This makes for early mornings and some long days. During the workday, I try to stay moving. A good busy day makes the day go by a lot faster. I always try to do my best and work as efficiently as I can. I try to be home in the evenings and have time to get some things done around the house before I get ready to do it all over again the next day.
M.M.: Do you have a mentor in the industry? How have you learned from an older generation?
C.P.: I have been blessed to have had some great mentors throughout my masonry journey. Dustin Love was my high school masonry teacher. He is the person I give all the credit for getting me into the industry. Dustin believed in me and saw my potential way before I ever did. He always pushed me to do my best and to always take pride in my work. When he noticed that I started to take an interest in his class, he came to me with the opportunity of competing in the Skills competition. At first, I didn’t want to do the competition and almost backed out days before the competition. Dustin stayed on me, encouraging me to at least try. I am sure glad he pushed me to go because I ended up winning the state SkillsUSA competition that year, and I have never looked back.
Another mentor I have been blessed to have around is Darrel Craig. He helped me tremendously after I started at Wasco to learn more about the BAC Local 8 Union that I have now joined. He has always been there to answer any questions I have. He has helped me get out to Las Vegas twice now to compete in the apprenticeship competitions at the World of Concrete show, in which I was able to finish 3rd place for the 1st year competition and 4th place for the 2nd year competition. He has always pushed me to continue to compete in competitions and to do my best.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in the masonry industry?
C.P.: When you are starting out in masonry, it can be tough. There can be days when you question why you are even in this trade. My advice would be just to keep pushing and stick with it. Masons are a dying breed, and the world needs more of them. It is a trade that is always going to be around. It can be tough work, but I believe that it can be very rewarding.
M.M.: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
C.P.: I would like to thank all of my family and friends that have supported me along the way. I’m thankful that the good Lord has given me the ability to work as a mason. I am really grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way because of masonry.