Rick Brown's (second from right) masonry students are usually hired before they  complete the whole program.
Rick Brown's (second from right) masonry students are usually hired before they complete the whole program.
Students progress through the 960-hour or 600-hour bricklaying courses at their  own pace.
Students progress through the 960-hour or 600-hour bricklaying courses at their own pace.

“Hardly anyone ever graduates from our program,” said masonry instructor Rick Brown, unemotionally. “But I need to explain that,” he added with more vigor in his voice.

“Our students are so much in demand that they are hired before completing the course. In my eight years here, I've only had five students complete the whole program and wear a cap and gown.”

Brown is in charge of the bricklaying program at the Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College, which was established in 1973. As a regional campus of the Utah College of Applied Technology, the program offers a 960-hour Bricklaying Certificate of Completion and a 600-hour Bricklaying Basics Certificate of Proficiency. Instruction is offered in an open-entry, open-exit, competency-based format.

“I like to think of it as salability-based,” said Brown. “Students certainly have to be competent, but we are training them to sell themselves to the marketplace.”

“I'm flattered that our program is in demand, but sometimes we have to guard against our own success. I had an employer come in here one day and exclaim, ‘I'll take all you've got.' It's tempting, but, of course, we cannot do that,” Brown emphasized.

Brown's open-entry program permits students to enroll any time during the year and begin classes the following Monday. Students have the flexibility to begin study at any time, progress through the course material (of which 20% is bookwork) at their own pace, and end their participation at any time. In order to earn a certificate, students must demonstrate competency when their knowledge and skills have been mastered. The students are evaluated based on written examinations and the demonstration of skills. A 60-hour bricklaying cooperative work experience is included in the Certificate of Proficiency.

The program's employer advisory team influences the whole curriculum, Brown reported. “We strive to develop marketable graduates. Our advisory team provides the kind of continuous evaluation and feedback that ensures that we are serving the needs of the community by developing entry-level residential and light commercial bricklayers,” he explained.