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Andy Schlichte of Cedar Rapids nears completion of his Masonry competition project in Jones Hall at Kirkwood Community College
Andy Schlichte of Cedar Rapids nears completion of his Masonry competition project in Jones Hall at Kirkwood Community College
September 9, 2013 12:30 PM CDT

Kirkwood masonry program builds careers

Jobs that stack up


For Matt Fish, an investment of less than a year at Kirkwood Community College could pay off for decades to come. The Waterloo-area grad has put the skills learned in his masonry classes to work as an apprentice mason since last summer. Fish is on a training and job growth track that should make him eligible for wages north of $1,000 a week in a few years. But one aspect of his new career has Fish thinking further ahead than wages or advancement.

“It’s pretty satisfying to work on something that you know is going to be there a hundred years from now,” Fish says.

Matt Fish is one of dozens of recent graduates from the Kirkwood Masonry program, one of many construction-related programs in the college’s Industrial Technologies department. Students learn skills that reach back to the pyramids of Egypt and great European cathedrals, while also reflecting the latest advancements in energy conservation and modern “smart buildings” technologies. Graduates also benefit from an overall demand for valued, hands-on skills to replace a wave of retiring workers from the Iowa and Midwest workforce.

For more than a decade, the Kirkwood Masonry program has been taught by Joe Luchtenburg. He started as a tender, assisting union bricklayers the mid-1980s. After completing the industry-led bricklayers’ school in Des Moines, he began work with Seedorf Masonry, one of the state’s leading firms. He now is an instructor for Kirkwood.

Luchtenburg points to his teaching area in Jones Hall. “This whole end of the building where we teach masonry and construction technologies is one of the best examples. Our students helped build all of this!” he says.

Steve Moyle, owner of Moyle Masonry, says hiring Kirkwood masonry grads “saves a lot of time” and makes further training progress much easier for his company. “I’ve been pretty impressed with what Joe teaches these students. They come to us with solid, basic knowledge,” Moyle says.

Industrial Technologies Dean Jeff Mitchell observes that Kirkwood’s program is the only Masonry program offered by a community college in Iowa.

“The knowledge and skills our students learn align directly with employer needs,” Mitchell says. “Students graduate with a strong work ethic ready to start the track from apprentice through journeyman to the master mason skill levels.”

While Luchtenburg and other Kirkwood leaders are proud to point to local projects as close as the college campus, they acknowledge the periodic economic gyrations of economic conditions in the Midwest.

Originally published in Masonry magazine.

About the Author

Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at


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