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Ashley Ritchie

Bricklaying Apprentice
Straight Line Masonry
Ashley Ritchie | Apprenti maçonne
Ashley Ritchie | Apprenti maçonne
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

Ashley Ritchie is a Bricklaying Apprentice at Straight Line Masonry.

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, and I grew up in Lepreau, New Brunswick.

I now live in: St. George, New Brunswick

I completed my training/education at: I completed my training at NBCC (New Brunswick Community College)

What I do at work

My main activity at work is installing brick on the outside of a building. The size, pattern, shape and openings (doors and windows) in a wall will determine the amount of work to be done. For example, a wall that is long and straight, and doesn't contain any openings will be easier to install than a shorter wall with multiple openings and shapes. If there are openings, a bricklayer must adjust the size of their mortar joints to ensure that a full brick aligns with the opening. Our trade uses a gauge tape to help us determine the thickness of a mortar joint. A gauge tape looks just like a measuring tape, but it has different markings for mortar joint thickness. We also use a laser level when starting our first row of brick. Sometimes the foundation (the cement walls that you typically see in your basement) you start laying your brick on is not perfectly straight, and a bricklayer must adjust the thickness of their mortar joints to allow for the height difference of the foundation. Bricklayers solve problems daily. They are constantly measuring and adjusting to reach window and door heights, or supports such as steel beams. 

Bricklayers must also install masonry ties. These ties are fastened (screwed) to the wall, and hidden in a mortar joint as you're installing the brick. These ties can only be spaced so far apart, and will have to be adjusted near obstacles. Obstacles can include plug-ins, light fixtures, water lines, etc. Anything you see attached to the outside of a building usually has something attached to it from the inside of the building. 

Bricklayers are team players. There is usually a bricklayer at the end of each wall, and if the wall is long enough, other bricklayers will work on the wall in between them. They must also have a labourer who makes sure they don't run out of mortar or brick. The bricklayers and the labourers must respect the roles of one another, as more work gets done when they are organized. One could not work without the other, and it is important to value and respect the role of each other.

My career path is

I didn't expect to be doing this when I was in high school. I became a carpenter first, and then realized that I loved transforming the exterior of a building. I love the combination of wood siding with brick or stone, so I decided to pursue a second trade as a bricklayer. This way I would be able to complete all of a building exterior without having to hire someone else to do it. I did an apprenticeship for both carpentry and bricklaying. I got my carpentry Red Seal, and I'm currently completing my last year of bricklaying. My interest in carpentry started from my high school shop class. The strange turn it took was leading to bricklaying. My bricklaying instructor pushed me to limits I didn't know I was capable of achieving.

I am motivated by

Seeing a building go up is what excites me about my career. Knowing that I help build schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings makes me feel proud for my community. We are constantly changing worksites and products, and it's hard to get bored, as every worksite has unique aspects. What I like most about my trade is the production routine. There is no need to over complicate it. We take simple concepts, such as building a box, and turn them into entire buildings. When many people think of brick, they think of a red square. What they don't think about is that a brick can come in so many different colors, and sizes. They can also be laid and installed in may different directions. A brick does not always have to be laid down, it can be installed standing up. This is one of my favorite aspects of my career. We are able to be creative.

How I affect peoples’ lives

The fulfilling part about my job is seeing the exterior of a building being transformed into something extraordinary. When people see the outside of a brick building, that is how they gain their first impression. Bricklayers create that first impression. Our brick also provides the first defense for a building. Exterior elements such as wind, rain or snow are unable to get through the brick if they are installed properly.

Outside of work I

When I'm not at work I enjoy being outside. I love kayaking, camping, going on my ATV, gardening and lying in my hammock. If I volunteer, it's usually for building organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. I love using my skills to help others in need.

My advice to others

My advice is to go for it. If you don't have any experience in the field you want to pursue, enroll in a pre-employment program. Trades people are some of the most intelligent people I have had the pleasure of working with. They are multi-tasking problem solvers, and I’m proud to be one!

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Math
  • Home Economics
  • Industrial Arts
  • Physical Education / Health
  • Science
  • Technology
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Wanted to be in charge
  • Liked being given specific instructions
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Played video games
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Learned Best by Doing

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