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June 2007

From the Editor

Thinking Outside the Box

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Job opportunities for brickmasons, blockmasons and stonemasons are expected to be very good through 2014. A large number of masons are expected to retire over the next decade, and in some areas there are not enough applicants for the skilled masonry jobs to replace those that are leaving."

I realize this isn't groundbreaking news for anyone who has been in the masonry industry for any extent of time. However, given the forgone conclusion that the industry needs to pursue action now, it bears repeating.

There are a number of extensive training opportunities being offered across the United States — from the national level, with the Mason Contractors Association of America and the International Masonry Institute, all the way down to practically every local and regional group in the nation. There are major efforts being made to motivate members of the next generation to build their careers in the masonry industry — and these efforts deserve our utmost admiration and support, now and into the future.

While these programs are certainly doing their part to ensure the masonry industry of tomorrow has the necessary workforce to prosper, I think that we can all agree that more needs to be done.

This month, we have the first article of a two-part series on masonry training (see page 14). Freelance author Brett Martin delves into the less-than-talked-about world of vocational training for prison inmates. While not a leading source of masons and laborers for the masonry industry, the impact that this form of training has — and could potentially have in the future — on the masonry industry certainly deserves mention. On the flip side, the career potential that is afforded to an inmate upon his or her release from prison is immeasurable.

In next month's issue of Masonry, Martin will follow up with an examination of other ways that mason contractors, associations and others are thinking outside the box in an effort to secure the industry workforce of tomorrow.

And, as every problem typically has more than one solution, "Business Building" columnist George Hedley joins us this month to discuss his thoughts on what the masonry industry is required to do to solve its workforce needs of the future (see page 46). While Hedley acknowledges that the construction industry across the board will be seeing some lean times for potential employee candidates, he feels that better career opportunities offered by contractors will bring better candidates to the forefront. He states that owners forget that they're not competing against other construction industries for candidates; they're competing against every company in the United States for viable workers. To stay in the race, mason contractors have to be willing and able to offer comparable employee packages.

While I have no doubt that his column might ruffle a few feathers in the masonry industry, it's certainly worthy of debate.

And, ruffled feathers or not, it's time to think about the future of the masonry industry — get involved, get passionate and get going. It's time to revisit old ideas and think outside the box for a fresh perspective. Either way you go, it's time to step up and take part in this essential area of the industry.



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