For Steven Uhler, happiness is a trowel in his hand, a stack of bricks and a project to finish. “It gives me a challenge, something I look forward to doing. It’s my favorite class. If I could stay down here all day I would.”
Uhler is a student in Joe Carroll’s masonry class at Dothan Technology Center. Uhler has been in the class for two years and when he graduates next year, he’ll leave high school with credentials that can immediately get him a job as a skilled laborer. Carroll said that providing students with career-ready education is the goal of his class, which provides students with all the skills they need to obtain entry level employment in the masonry field. Carroll said first-year students leave his class with a National Center for Construction Education and Research certification. Students who continue in the class can obtain other career certifications. Students in Carroll’s class are currently working on building a composite wall. The wall consists of a brick layer at the bottom and a stone layer on top with room for a window. Carroll said composite walls are popular in construction projects including shopping centers, courthouses and upscale homes. He said the big challenge of building a composite wall is getting two types of materials - brick and stone, to fit together. Fred Brown has been taking Carroll’s class for about two years. Brown said he enjoys working on hands-on projects and learning a skill he hopes to employ in building his own home one day. He said he enjoys mentoring new students and seeing them develop their skills. “It’s exciting to see that you just made something that you didn’t know you could make,” he said. Student Tye Whatley said Carroll keeps pictures of the students’ projects, allowing them to see how far they have progressed in his class. “We’ve all come a long way,” he said. Carroll said that for students who take his class and want to pursue a career in masonry, the future is wide open. Carroll said the average mason is now in his or her 50s, meaning there will soon be a mass exodus of retirees from the industry. Demand for masons is growing as the housing and construction industries have now recovered from the recession. Carroll said new masons can earn $21 to $35 per hour, depending on where they work. - Associated Press - Sunday, December 13, 2015 Information from: The Dothan Eagle,