From Apprentice to Professional: MARSHALLTOWN’s Dedication to the Trades


Words: Megan Rachuy

The number of skilled tradespeople has been dropping in recent years, and it seems that fewer and fewer people are interested in an honest day’s work. 

For MARSHALLTOWN, that is an issue. “We owe everything to those in the trades,” said Joe Carter, President and CEO of MARSHALLTOWN. “Contractors have trusted our tools for over 131 years, and we want to show our appreciation by supporting the trades.”

Under Carter’s leadership, MARSHALLTOWN makes conscious efforts to promote the trades. They aim to create excitement around the trades, inspire young minds, and support contractors throughout their careers.  Their strategy revolves around a multi-level targeting approach—from youth to apprentice to professional. 

Inspiring Young Minds

Carter recognized the importance of helping children forge an early appreciation for the trades. He observed his children pursuing careers in areas that they were interested in as kids. This inspired Carter to partner with his daughter, Hanna, to author and illustrate a series of trades-based children’s books. These books explore the ins and outs of concrete, drywall, and—most recently—masonry. 

The stories follow Marshall T. Trowel, the personification of a MARSHALLTOWN Finishing Trowel, and his friends as they help a local contractor on jobs. The books pair a friendly tone and wealth of trade knowledge with illustrations that bring construction to life. The most recent book, Marshall T. Trowel and Family – Brick – You Decided What Your Day Will Be Like., introduces a brick trowel named Brick as he helps his friends lay a new exterior for a restaurant. 

At a book signing hosted by the Marshalltown Public Library, Joe told attendees that his goal with this book series has always been “to show young people the benefits of the construction trades and to foster an appreciation for all the tradespeople who built the houses we live in and the roads we drive on.” 

A portion of the proceeds generated from the books has been donated to causes in the Marshalltown community. These include relief programs organized after an EF-3 tornado struck the city in 2018 and the Marshalltown High School vocational-technical (vo-tech) program to help students interested in a career in the trades.

Supporting Trade Schools and Apprentices

For MARSHALLTOWN, supporting the trades does not stop with their book series. They realized that the best way for students to learn is through hands-on education that simulates real-world problems they might experience in their careers. 

With this realization, MARSHALLTOWN created the Tools for Schools program. This program aims to support students entering secondary education, trade school, or apprenticeship programs to put professional-quality tools in aspiring professionals’ hands. 

Through the program, instructors nominate students who exhibit exceptional skills and dedication, and love for their craft. These students receive a letter of commendation, a certificate of excellence, and a MARSHALLTOWN trowel they use to help begin their career in the trades.

“Every tradesperson needs a good trowel,” said Kim Haley, the Tools for Schools administrator. “We see this program as a way to help young people get a good start in their trade by offering them a quality tool to kickstart their career.”

The program also offers special pricing on tools for instructors and schools focused on the trades. This ensures students and instructors have access to properly designed, professional-grade tools. By creating realistic simulations of jobsites and supplying students with high-quality tools, instructors can measure their students’ performance rather than the tool’s performance, offering students the ability to master techniques without worrying about faulty equipment.

Rewarding Professionals

As apprentices become professionals, MARSHALLTOWN still wanted to find a way to encourage professionals to stay committed to the trades. Two of the biggest prohibitors for tradespeople are the cost of tools and materials.

MARSHALLTOWN could not do much in terms of material, but they could help with tools. In December 2020, they released Team MARSHALLTOWN, a rewards program dedicated to rewarding professionals in the trades. 

The program offers an improved user experience on the MARSHALLTOWN website. Members receive points on purchases that can be redeemed for tools while also helping contractors save on shipping. The program features other benefits, including a welcome gift with their first Team MARSHALLTOWN order.

MARSHALLTOWN sees the program as a way to build a community around the trades. They believe a strong community will strengthen a person’s commitment to the trades and foster a deeper appreciation. As Team MARSHALLTOWN continues to grow, the company plans to introduce additional community elements to create a more extensive conversation surrounding the trades.

Sponsoring Trade Events

MARSHALLTOWN sponsors several events such as the Spec Mix Bricklayer® 500 and MCAA Skills Competitions to highlight the best in their field. These sponsorships help promote those at the forefront of their industry and offer a platform to inspire the next generation of tradespeople.

Winners of these events receive an engraved ceremonial DuraSoft® brick trowel and a nylon tool bag containing various masonry tools necessary to get the job done right. This helps provide the best masons with the best tools.

MARSHALLTOWN also chooses to align its brand mission with other companies committed to supporting the trades. At the beginning of 2021, MARSHALLTOWN acquired Gatorback®, the makers of industry-leading mortarboards and pans. Gatorback® has also been a long-time sponsor of the Spec Mix Bricklayer® 500 and other events. After acquiring the company, MARSHALLTOWN plans to continue honoring Gatorback’s longtime contribution to such events as well as their commitment to the masonry industry as a whole.

131 More Years of Dedication to the Trades

MARSHALLTOWN feels their efforts are a way to inspire the next generation of tradespeople and encourage continued commitment to the trades. MARSHALLTOWN sees how projects like the children’s books, Tools for Schools, Team MARSHALLTOWN, and more make a difference in the industry. That inspiration drives their team as they look for new ways to support the men and women who build the world around us.

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