Competition sparks excellence. The bricklayers of BAC 1 believe if it doesn’t spark excellence, it certainly does focus the mind. “If the specs call for brick to placed to a certain distance, the bricklayer has to be right on with their measurements,” explained John Slama, Masonry Coordinator at the BAC Training Center in New Hope. “If it doesn’t match what the contractor wants done, you won’t get paid.”

On a rainy day in late April, bricklayer apprentices tested their on-the-job knowledge in their annual skills competition. The bricklayer apprentices competed between classes (first, second and third year) and within the two different divisions, the brick division and the Pointer-Cleaner-Caulker (PCC).

Each apprentice is given a blueprint. In order to raise the bar of difficulty, placed inside the design is a color pattern. On the job there’s a lot of detail work, which they incorporate into the competition. Plus the contestants only get a few hours to complete the project. The judges are rigorous in measuring the specifics as well, and not just by a tape measure but by using a step gauge.

“Three or four years ago I did it,” said journeyman bricklayer Jesse Stonehouse who made it to the national competition. “You feel an immense amount of pressure. Pressure from our foremen and journeymen standing around judging what you do. The pressure to uphold the union standard that you are taught every single day and to do it in a time-cruched situation… it can become pretty intense.”

Keanan Carlson and Riley Strate were the top two finishers in the bricklayers division and move onto regionals in Chicago June 18. Greyson Cunningham and Joel Aaser will compete for BAC Local 1 in the PCC division a week later in Ohio.