Antonio Neufeld flew to Russia to represent Canada in the bricklaying competition over the summer

By Becca Myskiw

Red River College student Antonio Neufeld competed at the WorldSkills Competition in Russia at the end of August.

Neufeld, 22, stands next to one of the projects he had to build for the WorldSkills Competition in Russia./SUPPLIED

Neufeld is in the masonry apprenticeship program at the college. Masonry is the building of structures from individual units, usually bricks, which are laid and bound together by mortar. 

The program at RRC is strictly a three-year apprenticeship program. The first level runs for nine weeks, the second level for eight weeks and the third level, which Neufeld is on, runs for six weeks. In-class training happens during the winter months when the masonry business slows down.

Students start by working in the support role of bricklayers for six months to a year, then their employer makes the decision to invest in them to be a trainee and registers the student in the course at RRC. Neufeld said he originally got into the line of work four years ago when he graduated high school.

“I just like working outside,” said Neufeld. “I like the fact that there’s a lot to learn.”

Masonry instructor Brian Gebhardt said he’s represented Manitoba on the Canadian WorldSkills board for 20 years. He said they select the top candidates from the program to compete provincially and the best of those go to the national level.

Canada’s national WorldSkills Competition was in Edmonton this year. Neufeld got first place in bricklaying, then went to Russia to represent Canada for the international competition which took place Aug. 22 to 27.

“I knew [Antonio] would do well in Edmonton,” said Gebhardt. “I knew he would win.”

To train for the competition, Neufeld said he built projects that were done in previous years. He said all bricklaying projects are difficult and there’s often skills needed for one project that aren’t needed for the next.

Neufeld placed 27th out of the 31 competitors in the bricklaying portion of the WorldSkills Competition. He said the experience overall was amazing and the things he learned will help him at his job at Realstone Masonry in Winkler. He said he performed tasks at the competition he’s never done before and now knows what kind of problems to check for when doing similar projects.

(Left to right) Antonio Neufeld from Canada, Paul Coon from Australia, Lewis Greenwood from the United Kingdom all competed in the bricklaying competition./SUPPLIED

Gebhardt said Canada has been involved in the competition for 22 years and has had winners at a national level every year. For the country’s competitors to do better overseas, Gebhardt said Canada has to have a more concentrated and dedicated program. He said right now the training for Canadian competitors is limited.