MCAA Mobilizes Industry Recruitment and Training Efforts
In 1992 the U. S. Department of Labor projected that by the year 2005 the entire construction industry would face a shortage of 1 million skilled workers. In 1996 the Department of Labor issued occupational projections and training data that continue to support the initial 1992 projection.
The majority of individuals in the masonry industry do not consider themselves immune to the labor shortages that affect the entire construction industry. Rather than hoping the information is wrong or that the situation will change, many individuals and industry associations have taken active, aggressive steps to address the areas of recruiting and training masons.
The masonry industry is an industry whose various constituents are closely linked, so it is logical that those impacted by labor quality and availability would be involved. However, it is important to realize that the most complete masonry training involves on-the-job experience. Credible, on-the-job experience requires the cooperation of masonry contractors. Yet, these are the individuals whom, for various reasons, are the least likely to become active in the recruitment and training processes.
Knowing this, in 1994 the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) Board of Directors stepped into the recruitment and training foray. Until then, the MCAA had only observed as other facets of the industry took responsibility for the recruitment and training of masons.
As the accepted this responsibility, the MCAA had three goals:
- With the help of its members, the association wanted to promote masonry as a viable, rewarding career choice
- To develop the most comprehensive training materials available.
- To assist in the development of more mason training programs around the country.
Promoting masonry as a career was not going to be an easy job for two reasons. First, masonry has an image problem with students, parents, and teachers. Second, mason contractors were not used to going out and actively recruiting people into the trade. The MCAA has addressed this issue by creating an excellent promotional tool, the "Check Out a Career in Masonry" recruitment kit and by sending an aggressive message to member contractors that industry promotion should be a routine part of their job. These efforts have met with successful results. Over 300 kits were sold the first year that they became available. These kits have been used in visits by contractors and other industry representatives to junior and senior high schools.
However, the biggest success in the recruitment arena has been the launching of a national Masonry Career Day. This is a day identified as a national day to promote masonry in the schools. The concept has received a very strong response from all members of the industry and we have already been asked when next year's Career Day will be held.
The MCAA's second goal of developing the most current, comprehensive training materials has also been realized. In August of 1996 the MCAA released the three volume Mason Training Series. The three volumes of student text cover over 45 masonry industry topics. Each student text contains 144 hours of classroom instruction. There is also an instructors manual as well as a student notebook for recording on-the-job hours. The MCAA plans additional supplements in the future.
The third goal was to help mason contractors and local mason contracting associations begin training programs or enhance the programs currently in existence. While these efforts are just 4-5 months old, they too are meeting with success. All around the country, individuals as well as local associations, are realizing that their involvement is the key to successful mason training programs. The only way to develop well-trained masons is to run quality programs. Quality masonry training programs should have an on-the-job component. To get that component, you need the commitment of the mason contractor. As more contractors see this link, they are becoming more apt to get involved in education. In the last 5 months, new masonry training programs have begun forming in California, Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina. Moreover, existing programs, including those in vocational high schools, are getting more attention from local mason contracting groups. In fact, in response to member requests, the MCAA has begun to monitor the legislative activity that affects vocational education.
In summary, over the past two years the MCAA has made great strides in mobilizing the entire masonry industry to solve the critical work force shortages. For the first time, the entire industry is moving forward together and the results are paying off. There is no reason to believe that this momentum cannot be carried into the next two years and beyond.
About the Author
Connie Kitzinger was the Director of Education for the Mason Contractors Association of America.