Game Changer NCMCA Workforce Development and Training Coordinator: Ryan Shaver

Words: Ryan Shaver
Despite the annual looming threat of increasingly severe weather across the country, Americans are more ill-prepared than ever to rebuild after a devastating ecological event. The global staffing firm ManpowerGroup reports in its 2016-17 U.S. talent shortage survey that skilled trade workers, such as masons, are the most difficult job to fill in the country and have been since 2010 (gracing the Top Ten list nine times in the previous eleven years). Despite nearly half of all employers offering training and development to existing staff, and twenty percent offering higher salary packages or other perks and benefits, nearly a quarter of employers still report that they cannot fill positions due to a lack of applicants.

The lack of qualified masons and other skilled workers is an exceptionally concerning issue on a national scale, and the consequences of a lack of skilled workers are numerous and troubling. However, an organization in North Carolina seeks to remedy this problem, and after nearly twenty years successfully launched a position that essentially focuses on the recruitment, education, and training of new masons in March of this year. New programs and events have already greatly benefited the local community, and with minor modifications, their success could greatly improve the national deficit of skilled workers.

The North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association, or NCMCA, is quickly establishing itself as an innovative front-runner in the masonry industry. In the 1960s, groups like the Mason Contractors of Western Carolina existed independently, but after joining with other masonry associations from several of North Carolina’s larger cities, these groups would come to form NCMCA in April 1974. This year, the NCMCA is proud to represent 140 company members, sixty-six of which are masonry contracting firms. NCMCA members enjoy a myriad of benefits including access to the NCMCA Insurance Program, which offers competitive prices from exceptional providers and underwriters who specialize in coverage for masonry and construction companies. ‍

Participation in the NCMCA promotes fellowship and facilitates collaboration within the masonry industry, and members can take advantage of continuing education programs at local chapter meetings, conventions and at special Association sponsored workshops and seminars. Although not restricted to members only, the NCMCA also offers the NCMCA Masonry Contractor Certification Program for companies and individuals both, which is quickly becoming the industry recognized standard for quality masonry installation and craftsmanship. []

However, this focus on education and fellowship was not always the case for the NCMCA, and the creation of their new outreach development programs are in response to a great need. In the mid to late twentieth century, the Brick Association of North America (later, The Brick Association of the Carolina’s) assumed responsibility for the education and implementation of vocational masonry training in North (and later South) Carolina high schools. At the turn of the century, the consolidation of the brick industry reduced the need for a statewide or even regional promotional group as locally owned firms were bought out by larger manufacturers.

Consequently, the Brick Association of the Carolina’s was forced to reduce its expenditures and eliminate vocational masonry training programs. The educational void echoed throughout the entire region, and with no of coordinated attempts at improvement, school programs began to show signs of neglect. The 2008 economic downturn further hindered any relief efforts, and financial allocations to vocational masonry training have simply not been feasible for many organizations over the past decade. Thankfully, through NCMCA and their hiring of local industry standout Ryan Shaver, this discouraging trend seems to be on the edge of a drastic turnaround.

Shaver does not hail from generations of thoroughbred mason stock. Rather, his interest began at age 16, when an affable high school instructor lured him into a masonry class with the promise of skipping English on Fridays. His aptitude for brick and block was quickly apparent, and to this day he credits teacher Doug Drye for changing his life in numerous and remarkable ways. As his knowledge and skills expanded, so did his career. After winning several state and national contests, Shaver was hired by a company called McGee Brothers. Mentored by owner Sam McGee, he was empowered to rise through the ranks of the company over the next twelve years, before obtaining his General Contractor’s license and beginning to construct homes.

The 2008 Recession violently interrupted his plans for success and left him searching for answers. At a crossroads, Shaver turned to his high school mentor, who inspired him to give teaching a try. Before he knew it, he found himself back at his old high school, in the very classroom where his own masonry career began years before. As an educator, Shaver strove to get as many young people excited about the trade and get them a place in the industry as best as he possibly could because he knew what an impact masonry has made on his own life. In his six years as an instructor at Mt. Pleasant High School, he had five state and five national champions in various masonry competitions across the country, a very impressive feat. He then went on to work in product promotion, a career move that he credits with uniquely qualifying him for his current role.

Photo by Jeffrey Totaro

No CFCs, HCFCs, Toxic Compounds, Toxic By-products

Bricks are made from the non-organic minerals mentioned earlier. As such, they do not contain carbon-based materials. Bricks do not contain highly toxic compounds. Tests to evaluate the encapsulation of potentially damaging chemicals in waste materials have shown that no toxic compounds are leached from bricks. A brick is a 100 percent inorganic, inert material. Firing bricks with natural gas or coal will produce some emissions, which are well documented and controlled by state and national regulations. The brick industry recognizes the need for compliance with these regulations for clean air and the environment. Air emissions are minimized with controls such as scrubbers installed on kiln exhausts.
Lime waste that accumulates in scrubbers often is recycled as a beneficial additive to soil. Dust in brick plants is controlled through the use of filtering and containment systems, vacuums, additives and water mists. Even vehicular emissions are being addressed, with brick manufacturers monitoring truck emissions; recycling waste oil, antifreeze and hydraulic oil; and regulating truck speeds for improved fuel efficiency.

Local Raw Materials, Manufacturing

Most bricks are manufactured from materials obtained from within a few miles of the manufacturing plant. The average distance that raw materials travel to a plant is 15 miles. Brick manufacturing facilities are located in 38 states across the country and close to urban areas. In the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the United States, more than 25 plants exist within 500 miles of each, and at least two brick plants exist within 500 miles of 49 MSAs. More than 70 percent of these MSAs have at least one plant within 200 miles.

Readily Recyclable, Easily Reused

During the manufacturing process, any raw bricks, fired bricks, or scraps are recycled back into the production stream. Scrap bricks and bricks from demolition can be crushed and recycled into new bricks, or used as brick chips for landscaping, baseball diamonds and tennis courts. Recycled bricks also can be used as sub-base material for pavements, on quarry roads, or even as aggregate for concrete. When underground utilities must be accessed in pavements with sand-set clay pavers, the pavers can be removed, stockpiled and reused. Reclaiming bricks in the future is possible but may prove difficult, due to the portland cement used in contemporary mortar that increases the mortar strength, making it harder to remove from bricks.

Refurbished Buildings

Most refurbished buildings are constructed of brick masonry. Renovating these structures not only conserves product resources, but also extends the life of the existing building stock and diverts demolition waste. In addition, many culturally significant buildings such as courthouses, libraries, schools and town halls are made of bricks.

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