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Construction and manufacturing jobs are growing in demand faster than any other occupation.
Construction and manufacturing jobs are growing in demand faster than any other occupation.
March 20, 2018 8:00 AM CDT

Working to Fill the Skilled Labor Gap

County Materials Partners with High School Class


As a Technology Education teacher in Marathon High School, John Vanderwyst knew he was uniquely suited to address the shortage of skilled workers facing the construction and manufacturing industries by giving his students hands-on experience in the classroom and giving them insight about the many career opportunities that exist.

According to the US Department of Labor, skilled labor positions, such as construction and manufacturing jobs are growing in demand faster than any other occupation and are facing a massive shortage of workers. When preparing his 2017 courses, Vanderwyst began partnering with local companies and contractors to visit his classroom for lessons in their trade and to supply the materials and tools necessary to build a mock home from the ground up.

“The goal of the class is to get students exposed to the trades,” said Vanderwyst. “This is an opportunity for them to see if it is the direction they want to go and also get them some entry level experience.”

The mock home includes masonry, framing, heating, electrical and plumbing. Vanderywyst approached Steve Peter, an architectural sales representative with County Materials Corporation about supplying the masonry needed for the class. “We know there is a shortage of skilled laborers, which is exactly why we decided to jump on board with the project,” said Peter. “The shortage of skilled labor is state and nationwide. Not only are the technical education teachers beginning to see the importance of introducing kids to the trades—the guidance counselors, principals, super attendants and even parents are realizing these jobs are rewarding and well paying.”

County Materials supplied all the necessary aspects of building a masonry structure including structural gray block, Heritage Collection™ Designer Concrete Brick, mortar, sand, weeps mortar net and wall ties, as well as the necessary tools such as trowels and strikers. Peter visited the class several times to teach the students about the tools, masonry construction, and the benefits of being a mason.

Over the three-month course the students were able to go from an empty space on their shop class floor, to a fully functioning structure that nearly reached the classroom’s ceiling.

“I hope this is only the start of what will generate into a continued class, not only here but in high schools across the state,” Peter reflected.

Vanderwyst is proud of how the class went, and excited about the opportunity to keep the partnerships he developed going for future classes. “I just want to thank all of those involved in making this possible. County Materials, Van Ert Electric, Marathon Plumbing Service, Larry Meyer Construction, Lang Masonry, and Hurtis Heating & Air all were important partners. I think a career in the trades is a route to success; this class made my students aware of what is out there for them after they graduate.”

About the Author

County Materials Corporation is a family-owned, American-based manufacturing company, an industry leader and trusted resource for construction and landscape products. The company’s headquarters are in Marathon, WI, where it was founded with a single block machine in 1946. The company employs more than 1,500 people in 40 locations, supplying products for growing communities across the country. Follow County Materials Corporation on Facebook for updates about the company’s latest concrete innovations and charitable activities. For more information visit


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