I am a blue-collar guy and very proud of it. I did attend school and do have a white shirt in my closet, but the denim shirt fits the best. As I look back if I could have gone to trade school (do not even know if one was available where I grew up) while in high school, I think I would have taken that path because, like many back then, I was not prepared for college. I think training has become more prevalent in schools and not a minute too soon. We all know we have some really fantastic programs around the country, but to keep them, we will really need to put the effort in at the contractor and manufacturer level. I say this because of something that just happened in a masonry program in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The principal at a technical school near the East Coast had one of the greatest instructors that ran their program for many years, but when retirement came, the school administration did not see the total importance of the masonry program and began to downsize drastically.
As an industry, when we are aware of a retirement, change of instructor or a teacher’s promotion, we all need to become involved locally to support the program so it does not become reduced or eliminated; stop by and meet the principal, visit the classes and present at the teaching lab at the school with administrators in attendance if possible and make a big deal of the students every chance you can because they are a big deal!
We all know we are replaceable in the big picture; however, our work should be a show of planning, scheduling, mentoring and doing. The principal, in the case mentioned earlier, disposed of most of the teaching materials.
The teacher had the ability to mentor, but it quickly became his job to plan to contact suppliers and contractors to obtain what materials he needed and schedule deliveries of materials around school events. The principal prevented the replacement instructor from teaching immediately or from doing because of a lack of materials at the beginning of the class sessions.
This is not the only case of an administrator losing his mind over a program when the teacher retires; this year, another teacher and member of the National Masonry Instructors Association discussed with me how he needs to stay and teach another year so he can find the proper teaching instructor so the program that he built can continue to train and turn out great bricklayers to continue the trade.
We all work most of our careers, never thinking about what would happen if we resigned or retired. Somehow, I think we all like the idea that our work mattered enough to be continued by others. When the administrator, who does not truly understand the trades enough to take the time to learn about the importance of the trades that built this country, determines if our programs continue to exist or not, many times, our work stops when we do. In a separate case from what is mentioned above, Ryan Shaver was taught by Doug Drye. When Mr. Drye retired, he picked someone who could carry on the legacy of masonry instruction within the facility that was once attended as a student and then became his replacement instructor; choosing Ryan was the best decision that could have been made. We need to follow that with every teacher that retires, choosing someone that you know can replace you.
As a mentor or instructor in this industry, we need to keep things going by allowing our up-and-coming folks to excel in what we share. They will take our jobs one day- that is the goal, not the threat. Honestly, when a student of yours (no matter if you just mentor or care enough to teach at any level) passes you with better skills and thought processes, you feel a great deal of pride in them and feel good that the relationship has produced such an important part of our trade for years to come.
Hey, we were picked for this trade by the trade; it is our job to take care of it and keep it strong.