Let’s share our passion!
By Mike Sutter
After just returning from Las Vegas and the World of Concrete/World of Masonry, I can tell you I am re-energized. How could I not be after all the productive meetings, social events, and of course MASONRY MADNESS on Wednesday — from the Apprentice Skills contest to the MCAA Fastest Trowel on the Block, and finally the SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500? We were able to see the best contestants from around the country in all three events. It was also the largest crowd I have seen in quite a few years. I was particularly proud to watch the apprentices, as nervous as they were, as they are the future of our industry and most of us began our careers in the masonry industry in the same way.
We have a shortage of workers in our industry. In fact, the number of those retiring after many years in the industry is outpacing those entering the workforce. The MCAA will continue to do everything we can to recruit workers for our industry. It is one of the top priorities we will focus on during my term as chairman.
Over the years, I have heard bricklayers say they wouldn’t recommend the trade to a young person just graduating and about to enter the workforce. I have never understood that statement from someone who has made his living and provided for a family through the trade. Sure, it is hard work, and we sometimes have to work in the cold or heat when others are working in a climate-controlled environment. But our chosen career is incredibly rewarding. We all need to share the fulfillment we receive when completing a project or driving by it years later and saying to our family and friends, “I helped build that building!” We need to share the passion we have for our industry whenever possible.
Years ago when I started in the trade, I was sent to a jobsite for a large commercial mason contractor in northern Ohio, where a friend of my father’s was a foreman. His name was Pete Shymske, and he was a short Polish man with biceps bigger than my thighs. Hanging out of his mouth was a cigar that he never lit but chewed on all day. I was scared to death, to say the least. He told me that my father asked him to “take me under his wing,” and that is what he intended to do. He taught me everything I know about the trade, but more than that, he taught me a lot about life. He showed me the importance of saving money, buying real estate, and that family and faith are more important than anything else. But the most significant thing I got from Pete was his passion for the masonry industry. Everything he had achieved and the way he supported his family was from the trade, and I’m sure he would not exchange his experience for anything. I spoke to Pete just before Christmas, and he was celebrating his 91st birthday. After reminiscing for a while, he told me that none of his six children ever got into the trade, but they were all successful and he was very proud of them.
When we are out recruiting and training our workers of the future, we need to “take them under our wing” and share our passion for the industry. We all have it, so let’s share it!
I am fortunate that Pete shared his passion with me. Even when I would occasionally make a mistake and he yelled at me at the top of his lungs with cigar tobacco flying out of his mouth, I could see that passion! For that I am grateful to him!
Please follow me on Twitter @AZMason1, and come along with me on my two-year journey as MCAA chairman.
About the Author
Mike Sutter is the CEO of Sutter Masonry, Inc. He has served as an officer on the Executive Board and the Region G Vice President for the Mason Contractors Association of America.