Subject: Raise the Line on Training 

Jerry Painter  

I am sure everyone is aware of the disasters that have tested the resolve of all Americans. From the deadly fires out west to the tornadoes in mid-America to the hurricanes on the East and Gulf coasts. All these disasters caused massive destruction to our natural resources as well as our infrastructure. Utility systems, homes, and buildings of all types have been destroyed by the thousands.   

Mother Nature as destructive as she can be will also heal the lands and waterways and bring the lost animals back. Mother Nature will use what she must to allow nature to reconstruct itself. What Mother Nature can’t do is rebuild everything. That is something for mankind to do. But that requires a huge amount of resources. Money, material, and people in huge amounts are what is needed.  

Most of the money will come from insurance, government assistance or reinvestment. The hope is that we learn from all of this and continue to improve our building material, building codes and installation techniques to withstand these extreme forces of nature. The concrete masonry is the best ‘go to’ building system. While others will argue there are other systems that can be used, masonry is the most flexible of these systems. Masonry doesn’t burn and when properly designed and installed will withstand the ravages of wind, water, and pressures. If more buildings are replaced with masonry it will create more strain on an already inadequate labor force.  

Currently, the masonry workforce is seriously shorthanded. As I traveled the country last year the most common conversations were about the manpower shortage. It is a national issue that is only getting worse. Some formal training is working in limited areas. Williamson College of the Trades in Pennsylvania comes to mind. Some union locations are having moderate success in various areas of the country. So, what are all the other contractors doing to grow the workforce? Many contractors will tell you that they are training mason in-house. That is like homeschooling your kids. It requires serious commitment by both parties. Many of the contractors will only train for the majority of the type of work they commit to doing. In the southern part of our state, it is all about laying concrete masonry units (CMU). Some believe that in a year you can train people to lay CMU to a line. All that does is help that area only. It the mason-in-training wants to move to mid-America they will be limited in their available jobs and pay.  

I want to challenge ALL mason contractors to participate in a registered apprentice program. Now I hear you already hollering at me about there being no programs in your area. If that is the case gather other contractors in your area and start your own locally. The next scream I will hear is you telling me you don’t know how. Your first call should be to your state association. If you don’t have one, then start one of those first. If that doesn’t work, call your MCAA for help.   

I’m sure MCAA and the largest provider of the curriculum (NCCER) will assist. There are two major issues in successful apprentice programs. Those are masonry contractor commitment and recruitment of apprentices. In our state, we have what we believe is the very best model that has been developed. One reason it is not enormously successful is the lack of contractor commitment.   

YOU as mason contractors owe it to your industry to properly train our next generation of masons. Without your commitment and a huge addition to our workforce, we will be unable to successfully rebuild all the damaged and destroyed buildings. IT IS TIME WE RAISE THE LINE ON TRAINING. 

Send any questions and comments to MCAA and COME ON AROUND THE CORNER. 

Jerry