Masonry Contracting Firms’ Participation Is Essential

Words: Ryan Shaver

Words: Ryan Shaver, Workforce Development & Training Coordinator at NCMCA
Photos: The North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association (NCMCA)

Originally published in "Best Practices for Recruiting Young People to Careers in Masonry: The North Carolina Model" from The North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association

It is a great advantage to have an association staff position solely dedicated to workforce development and recruitment. However, a successful program also requires the participation and commitment of masonry contracting firms. Ryan Shaver offers his perspective: 

It can be a challenge getting masonry contractors to fit workforce development and training into their busy schedules. In North Carolina, I attempt to involve them in all the events that take place and have them accompany me to visit schools and make presentations. 

Once a mason contractor has a positive experience with having youth employed, especially with the hiring of Pre-Apprentice program participants, it makes it easier for them to justify taking a day or half day to travel with me to schools. I make all the necessary arrangements for each visit. After I provide a good overview of the masonry trade, the mason contractor that joins me for presentation tells about his own company and employment possibilities. 

Another way to involve the mason contractor is through masonry competitions. Prior to contest events, we pull together an event committee. With the committee’s help, I solicit volunteers from across the state to man contest duties the day prior to the contest and for contest day. It is great to have mason contractors watching the students, encouraging the students, judging the students, and tearing down the projects after completion. The students always remember the masons and are glad to see them when the masons they meet at the contest events visit their schools. 

Masonry Education Day is one of the best relationship building tools that we have. The mason contractor and the students are together for the day, traveling around to tutorials, watching a contest, eating lunch together, and competing for prizes. Masonry Education Day is a “laid-back” environment, providing a relaxed opportunity for talking and getting to know one another. But it’s also a fast-paced day providing so much fun for both the student and their masonry contractor host. 

Recruiting young students has turned out to be much easier than first anticipated. However, pairing eager students with a company willing to put them to work has proven to be more of a challenge. But we’ve found that once a company understands the program and has experience with the students as employees, the firm generally is pleased. In fact, chances are, if students are having a good experience, the students will bring friends as additional employee prospects. I stay on the phone with the contractors weekly to keep them focused on building the workforce. Thankfully in North Carolina we have done a good in that respect. 

NCMCA asked several masonry contractor members to tell about their experience in hiring and working with youth, especially student participants in the NCMCA masonry pre-apprentice program, requesting the contractors provide insight and advice for other firms that might consider participating in such a program for high school age students.

Tim Rosman is the masonry superintendent for Griffin Masonry in Matthews, NC. Tim says, “Griffin Masonry employs apprentices that have early release from school, over school breaks and during the summer.

Tim Rosman

“We will bring them on when they are sixteen years old under certain guidelines to what they can do on the job. Their jobs include mixing mortar and mainly keeping the job clean and stuff organized. They learn a lot about Teamwork and Accountability.

“Our recruitment process mainly happens in conjunction with other area masonry contractors and help from the NCMCA. They organize events that bring schools together such as career fairs, masonry contests and sometimes just visiting schools to get a chance to talk to the students about all of opportunities in the masonry field.

“One of the biggest obstacles we face is, when a young person comes to us, we pretty much have to teach them how to work. When a 16-17 year old goes to a job, we want them to be excited about the opportunities they have. The main thing is we want them to have knowledge of what is expected as well as some key safety practices so they can be productive members of the crew. We bring them to our office their first day and go through a training process which explains what is expected of them, how to use equipment that pertains to their scope of the job, as well as proper use of Person Protective Equipment (PPE) so they feel comfortable about what they are going to do thru the day.

Danks Burton

“We place them with a foreman that is patient, is a good teacher and likes to work with new employees. We feel this first experience can be the difference in a young person making a career in masonry or not.

“All apprentices start out laboring. Learning to mix mortar in a timely manner, learning to set scaffolding, organizing the job for the best possible production of the crew. Any employee that plans to be a future foreman needs to know and understand every aspect of the job. We have had very good success with this. Right now, six of our foremen started out as young apprentices through the summer program while still in school or came to work directly after graduating high school, working their way to their ultimate leadership role.”

NCMCA President and owner of Pinnacle Masonry in Cary, NC, Danks Burton says, “The pre-apprentice program is a welcome addition to our workforce and development training initiative within North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association. To have the ability to put students to work on our jobsites and introduce them to masonry during their high school years is tremendous.

“We had two young men in summer of 2019 and are fortunate to have them both return this summer. Working on a masonry crew is a great experience for the students in their development of good work habits while making a good wage. For masonry contractors, it provides us with needed help on our jobsites and we are excited to introduce them to masonry and all that it has to offer.

“Pinnacle Masonry will always support this program and look forward to bringing on more students in future years.”

Cliff McGee

Cliff McGee is the manager of the McGee Brothers Company’s Greensboro, NC division. He says, “If you are considering becoming involved, these would be my recommendations.

“Do it. In my opinion it has been a very successful program.

“Be prepared to spend some time. It is not the same as hiring an “adult”. Hiring students requires worker permits, parent/guardian signatures and other paperwork.

“Be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Remember, this will more than likely be the first paying job some of these students have ever held. They may not understand how pay periods work, about taxes, or a whole host of other work-life issues.

“Be patient. We have had a couple of cases where a student may work one summer, we don’t hear from them for a year, then they come back and want a full time job after graduation.

“Stop every now and then and remind yourself that these students are sixteen to eighteen years of age. They are going to think a lot differently that you.

“All of what I’ve listed can be a really eye opening and refreshing experience to take on. The excitement you can get from some of these students is contagious so be careful! It may change your company.”

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