By SARA ARTHURS
Jon Weininger has cemented a victory in a national bricklaying competition.
The Findlay man won first place in the second-year apprentice division of the Masonry Skills Challenge in Las Vegas.
Weininger was previously a welder and started bricklaying about two and a half years ago after getting laid off. While looking into other welding jobs, a friend who is a bricklayer said he could get him into the bricklayers’ union. Weininger didn’t have a background in it, but caught on quick.
He’s still an apprentice and has a year and a half left until he becomes a journeyman. As an apprentice, he studies with the Ohio-Kentucky Administrative District Council, a school for bricklayers that has a training center in Amherst, Ohio. He was selected from the class to attend a regional competition, where he competed against bricklayers from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and West Virginia. He placed first there, too, and qualified for the national competition in Las Vegas.
The Masonry Skills Challenge is a competition of masonry apprentices in first-, second- and third-year skill levels. Apprentices who won regional U.S. and foreign competitions vied to be the top masonry apprentice at each level. The event is also intended to focus attention on careers in the masonry industry.
Competitors weren’t told at the beginning what they would be asked to build. They were given a blueprint just before the start of competition, and were granted three hours to complete their projects. Contestants could not consult their instructor, employer or anyone else during the competition. Judging was based on aesthetics and how level their bricklaying was, among other measurements.
Weininger said he wasn’t nervous at first, but got “pretty frustrated” as the contest went on. The competition in Ohio had been held inside, and the mortar didn’t set up as fast. The Vegas competition was outside, where the warm sun dried out the mortar, making it hard to lay. Also, the longer bricks used in the contest threw off his measurements.
“I was shocked and amazed” to come in first at the national competition, Weininger said, noting that he was still relatively new to bricklaying. Although his competitors were also apprentices, he said that doesn’t mean they don’t have any experience. The 32-year-old said some of the other apprentices are younger, having gone to vocational schools for high school and then started out, but others are closer to his age or older.
For his efforts he won $750 as well as several tools. Also, he and his wife had never been to Las Vegas before, and enjoyed getting to explore the sights.
Weininger works with Mosser Construction out of Fremont and has been involved in building new high schools in Defiance and Liberty Center. What he likes about the work is that “there’s almost an art to it.” Crews need to be particular about their work, he said, as this is what people see when they look at the outside of the building.
The work can be hit or miss, and Ohio winters mean sometimes there isn’t work at all for a while. But Weininger said he has been fortunate.
“You can find work,” he said. “And it’s a good career to get into.”