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A SkillsUSA Network Helps Self-Proclaimed “Brick Chick” Craft a Rock-Solid Career

Her more than 100,000 Instagram followers know her as “That Masonry Girl,” a proud online proponent of the skilled trades. Offline, Ashton White is no less passionate about the trade she loves and the organization — SkillsUSA — that led her to career-ready success.
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Photo by Janet Cantore-Watson.

Recent graduate Ashton White loves the way her new career is evolving — but what she loves even more is sharing her experiences with others. The two-time SkillsUSA gold medalist is a self-proclaimed “brick chick” who has amassed over 100,000 Instagram followers by sharing the masonry career she loves.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school, but SkillsUSA led me to my passion,” White says. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management. Today, she holds an internship with the Texas Masonry Council doing marketing and event planning and also runs social media for SPEC MIX, a large and renowned masonry company.

White explains that brick is one of the most useful building materials that exists. It is inexpensive and available almost everywhere — only clay, sand, water, air and fire are needed to make bricks, and they are fireproof, low maintenance and long-lasting. What’s more, as White points out, you can build anything out of brick, from a simple retaining wall to a huge home or building.

Paving the Way to Her Passion

White has “always loved being able to work with my hands and seeing things that I’ve built,” but she admits that “the construction field hadn’t even crossed my mind until I watched the state Masonry competition my sophomore year of high school.”

That experience lit a fire in White and, during her junior year at West Rowan High School in Mt. Ulla (N.C.), she enrolled in the masonry class taught by instructor and SkillsUSA advisor Rodney Harrington. White worked and practiced with Harrington for the next four years, all the way through her time at Rowan Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury. “My college didn’t have masonry, but Mr. Harrington continued to work with me during those years so I could improve my skills,” she explains.

White competed at the state level in high school and, while at Rowan, advanced to the national SkillsUSA Championships in both 2018 and 2019. She earned top honors both times, becoming the first woman to ever win back-to-back gold at the college/postsecondary level for Masonry.

Harrington has coached numerous successful competitors, but he says White is special. “Ashton as a student was a great role model for other students. As a competitor, she pushed herself. What I see for Ashton’s future is endless. This young lady can do anything she wants to do.”

It was more than technical skills alone, however, that led White to success beyond her competitions. The personal and workplace skills she also developed as a SkillsUSA member — combined with her naturally friendly personality —helped her easily connect with the representatives of the various companies that sponsored the competitions. As a result, she was able to build a network of connections that’s become the foundation of her burgeoning career.

That Masonry Girl

Known as “That Masonry Girl” on social media, White’s online presence is a way of sharing the craft and showing that anyone can explore a masonry career no matter their age, gender, background or experience. She originally launched her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels to document the competitions and trade shows she attended but quickly realized the power of social media as her following expanded. “I’m hoping I can help the industry close the skills gap by supporting the trade competitions and posting about them,” she explains. “I love to connect with people and inspire others to get involved in the industry.”

White has amassed followers of all ages who are intrigued by her knowledge and love of masonry. She now has over 110,000 followers on Instagram — and that number is rapidly growing. As White documents her experiences, she remembers that people from around the world may interact with her posts. “You never know when my post could reach someone who will then decide to pursue a career like mine,” she says. To White, that is the ultimate success.

“I’ve been able to go to several competitions and take videos and photos to share. I represented Stabila at the World of Concrete international event in 2020 and built a brick throne to show that women can be in masonry too. I also attended the World of Concrete for the Bricklayer500 in January to run social media for SPEC MIX.”

“The way [SkillsUSA involves] industry makes it easy to connect with potential employers. I’ve had so many opportunities because of this organization.”

Ashton White

SkillsUSA Educator and Advocate

At the 2022 SkillsUSA Championships in Atlanta, part of SkillsUSA’s National Leadership & Skills Conference (NLSC), White supported the national Masonry contest as a member of the Masonry National Education Team and worked in the adjacent Jag Clamp booth, all while posting about NLSC online. In her support role, White could visually inspect the progress of the students and see how they were doing. Masonry requires physical strength, precision and attention to detail. Sometimes a competitor might even have to backtrack or take down part of their wall to rebuild it correctly. It was a fantastic experience for White, although being behind the trowel instead of holding it was a new perspective.

White giving back at the 2022 NLSC in Atlanta, Ga. Photo by Janet Cantore-Watson.

“It was definitely different to get to see everything that goes on behind the scenes that I didn’t see when I competed,” White says. “I was sad that I wasn’t competing because I love it so much, but I was thankful to be able to help and encourage this year’s competitors. I loved getting to know them, just paying it forward and helping with the competition.”

Not surprisingly, White once again impressed her more experienced colleagues while supporting the SkillsUSA national event. “Ashton is a great young lady who has been able to show that masonry is for everyone,” says Ryan Shaver, the Executive Vice President and chief executive officer for the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association, the co-chair of the SkillsUSA Championships Masonry competition and chairperson of the SkillsUSA North Carolina Masonry contest. “When she was competing as a student, Ashton worked hard to do her absolute best and would really push herself. I look forward to watching her get settled in with a masonry contractor and take the skills she has learned and put them to work.”

A Sturdy Future Under Construction

At 23, White’s loving her career path, and she credits the industry network she’s built through SkillsUSA with getting her — and keeping her — on course. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my faith; my instructor Mr. Harrington; all my family, friends and the many people in the industry who have supported me. I can’t thank them enough!”

White is truly invested in SkillsUSA because she credits her own involvement with advancing her skill set, expanding her industry connections and boosting her confidence. “I think SkillsUSA is amazing. I wish every school had a chapter,” she explains. “The competitions get students excited. The way they involve industry makes it easy to connect with potential employers. I’ve had so many opportunities because of this organization.”

White also views her competition experiences as integral to her learning. “Through the competitions, I learned to think critically and develop problem-solving skills as I read the plans I was given. I had to figure out how I was going to get from start to finish in the time allotted and where I needed to be at each hour to finish on time,” she explains. “I had to improve certain skills and be able to adapt and overcome obstacles, because not everything goes as planned.”

“Not everything is perfect out in the field,” White continues. “You have different types of mortar, brick, block and stone. You must determine how you will work your plan and stay within the measurements. Sometimes the mortar isn’t the right consistency, or it can be too sandy. You must think through how you’re going to overcome problems and finish the project. My competition practices helped me get better at tackling problems and developing my planning and organizational skills.”

What does she love most about masonry? “I get to create something and see it built start to finish and do it myself. It is very tangible. It’s a great career option for those who like working with their hands. The industry is so rewarding and there are so many different opportunities to succeed.”

When she isn’t working, White enjoys the outdoors, hiking or being out on the lake to explore new places with her friends. Her new career is her priority, though, and helping future skilled workers is what she is all about. In fact, among her many future plans is running an apprenticeship program so she can mentor others.

“I truly love using my growing platform to promote SkillsUSA, companies in my field and the skilled trades in general.”

On the Web

Keep up with Ashton White @ThatMasonryGirl on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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