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By Dolores Quesenberry, Communications Director, ApprenticeshipNC
Mason Saunders, a 20-year-old apprentice with Huntley Brothers Co., won the 36th annual Masonry Apprenticeship Contest at the N.C. State Fair on Monday, Oct. 18. The 2021 masonry contest showcased 39 skilled apprentices from across the state who registered for the competition. Saunders and all other apprentices who qualified for the competition were with registered apprenticeship programs approved by ApprenticeshipNC.
Saunders attended Mt. Pleasant High School and currently lives in Midland, where he works full-time as an apprentice for Huntley Brothers. Saunders realized he loved masonry when he was a freshman in high school, but it was his masonry high school instructor, Ryan Shaver, who inspired him to pursue masonry as a career path.
“I knew that I liked masonry, but when Ryan Shaver told me he saw something special in my work, it inspired me to continue learning and I have been doing so ever since,” Saunders said. “I hope to do this type of work for the rest of my life.”
Shaver and Saunders reunited at the masonry contest in Raleigh as Shaver now works for the N.C. Masonry Contractors Assoc., a major sponsor of the annual masonry contest. As the workforce development training coordinator with NCMCA, Shaver is continuing his passion of recruiting young talent like Mason Saunders to the field of masonry.
"I taught Mason for one year when he was a freshman in high school and I immediately detected his talent," Shaver said. "Mason is blessed wth natural talent and he has a great work ethic. He is the future of the masonry industry."
Mason Saunders is not new to winning contests. In 2018, while a junior at Mt. Pleasant High School, Saunders won the state masonry contest in Greensboro. Winning at the state level, qualified him for the national masonry contest later that year in Louisville, Ky., which he also won. Saunders then had a chance to go to the World Skills contest, but the event was cancelled due to COVID-19. Now Saunders has the 2021 victory at the N.C. State Fair to add to his list of awards.
“Winning the state fair masonry contest is a blessing to me and I tell my family that this is something I take pride in doing,” Saunders said. “My work represents the company I work for and shows how we try to do good work.”
Saunders has worked on many masonry projects over the years, but when asked about his most meaningful work, he says it is a tombstone he built for his family after losing their beloved family pet, Molly, a mix between a boxer and a hound, who died on March 26, 2021.
““When Molly died it made me go back to laying brick shortly after,” Saunders said."The tombstone is in the backyard of my parents’ home, so we visit it all the time and it brings back memories of the best house dog we’ve ever had.”