Robert Arnold is the National Director of Apprenticeship and Training at the International Masonry Training and Education Foundation, which is funded by the International Masonry Institute. He has worked as a bricklayer and later as an instructor and training director since 1978. He agreed to share his insight on the 2015 BAC/IMI International Apprentice Contest that will be held September 11-12. Here's the conversation.
Q: Tell me about the upcoming contest. What is it and how does it work?
A: This contest brings in the best skilled apprentices from around the country from each trade and is the culmination of local and regional contests.
The competition is designed to test the knowledge and skill of apprentices in each of eight craft categories: Brick, Cement, Marble, Plaster, PCC (Pointing, Cleaning, Caulking), Stone, Terrazzo, and Tile.
This contest takes all day and tests the knowledge, skill and quality of each apprentice. The apprentices start the day with a written test. Their knowledge of the trade has to be top-notch.
The apprentices are then challenged to complete a hands-on component. A 10’ x 10’ space is set up for them with all the materials that they need. They are given blueprints and instructions they have never seen before. The apprentices have just 5 hours to complete the project. Judges watch their progress and evaluate the results.
At the end of the day their test scores are tallied and the judges’ scores are tabulated to select the top 3 winners in each craft.
Q: How are the contestants for this contest selected?
A: 3rd year apprentices from all local BAC unions throughout the country participate in local contests. The local winners move on to regional competitions in the United States and Canada. 82 regional winners have made it to the national level to compete this year.
Q: Tell me when and where the contest will be held.
A: The contest will be held on September 11-12 to kick-off the BAC convention. This year is the 150th anniversary of BAC, founded in 1865. The contest will be held at the John J. Flynn BAC/IMI International Training Center in Bowie, Maryland. This center is large enough to accommodate all eight trades at once and is an opportunity for apprentices from around the country to see the International Training Center.
Q: How is the contest judged?
A: The judging for this contest is focused on quality rather than simply speed or quantity. Each craft has individual metrics that cover 5 or 6 segments.
For example, judging criteria includes:
• Manipulation skills
• How precise cuts are
• Correct slope for a drain
• Level & plumb
Q: Who are the judges?
A: There are 25 judges that will evaluate the skills and work of the apprentices. The judges for the contest are all seasoned journey workers. They represent all the regions of the country and each have more than twenty years of experience in their craft.
Q: When and how are the winners recognized?
A: The 24 contest winners will be recognized at the contest banquet that kicks off the BAC convention. 1st, 2nd & 3rd place in each craft will be awarded trophies and monetary prizes.
Q: How does this contest reflect on union training?
A: Apprenticeship is a great way to learn a trade. For three years the students get hands-on experience and instruction alongside skilled workers and are paid (albeit at a lower rate). This contest shines a light on the best apprentices. These apprentices show great dedication to their craft and work hard to compete at this level. Overall the intensity of this competition reflects the high quality of the apprentices going through our union training programs.