An indispensable trade
As a skilled labor shortage in the masonry industry continues to frustrate, we are reminded why the masonry trade is such a viable option for young people today. Masonry is an indispensable trade. Without working masons to construct important new buildings and perform needed repairs on existing structures, our economic system as we know it would grind to a halt.
These days, skilled masons are especially in demand. In the last few years, more qualified masons have retired than are entering the industry. This has resulted in a shortage of skilled brick and block layers and stone workers. While many in the construction industry are expressing concern at this state of affairs, the situation presents a golden opportunity for young people, returning veterans, and other individuals in search of a rewarding career.
Even though masonry buildings are everywhere, masonry is not often mentioned to young people as a career option. More awareness is needed about the tremendous opportunities in the masonry trade. For those who enjoy working with their hands; take pride in creating something useful and beautiful; want to avoid hefty student debt; and would like to earn a respectable wage virtually right away, masonry can be an ideal career.
To get started in the masonry trade, a person need only attend a one- or two-year technical college masonry program. Generally, a new graduate will start out as a tender, assisting an experienced mason. Starting wages average around $30,000 to 35,000 annually. However, opportunities for advancement are plentiful. A good mason can find himself earning $50,000 to 60,000 annually just a few years after entering the profession.
A renaissance in masonryThe last few years have witnessed a growing trend toward recognizing the masonry industry for its important role in society, and supporting it toward continued growth and excellence.
For example, the SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500 Competition is an exciting event in which master bricklayers from across the country compete for the title of “The World’s Best Bricklayer” – plus more than $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a Ford F250 pickup truck. The winners are judged for both speed and craftsmanship.
The competition begins in regional events across the nation, but the excitement really heats up each year at the World of Concrete trade show in Las Vegas. “There’s a lot of people who come and watch (the national competition),” says 2015 Wisconsin regional champion Cory Firkus of Firkus Masonry. “They’re pretty psyched up. People were yelling and cheering. It was like going to a football game.”
Besides being fun for everyone, the BRICKLAYER 500 events are helping bring attention to masonry as an important and rewarding career. “It’s a fun career,” Firkus says. “It feels good, and you can be proud of showing people what you’ve done.”
In Wisconsin, the Masonry Technology Foundation of Wisconsin (MTFW), a branch of the nonprofit Wisconsin Masonry Alliance, is a group that raises funds to increase awareness of masonry as a career. They provide scholarships, training and opportunities for students, veterans and other individuals who would like to go into the masonry field. One of these opportunities is the Wisconsin High School Masonry Program, which provides lesson plans and materials to enable high schools in Wisconsin to offer introductory masonry training to students who might not otherwise be aware of masonry as a career opportunity.
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
County Materials Corporation is the industry's resource for high quality concrete construction and landscape products.
The article was provided by County Materials Corp., a manufacturing company and source for construction and landscape products, www.countymaterials.com. County Materials supports the masonry industry and masonry education. By supporting the MTFW, and sponsoring the SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500, the High School Masonry Program, and similar regional and national events and programs, the company helps the masonry trade continues to thrive in the future.