The 2006 RMCA graduation class produced more than 30 residential masons.
The 2006 RMCA graduation class produced more than 30 residential masons.

In 19 years of contracting, one of my biggest challenges has been finding qualified residential masons. I finally decided, “If you can't find them – train them.”

Why not?

Why do we keep hiring people who say they have the experience required, only to find out the hard way – for one reason or several – that they were unqualified? Truly qualified residential masons get harder to find, primarily because there has been a lack of specialized training available in the last decade or two. It appears that the majority of residential masons that actually had formal training moved on to contracting, retirement, or other careers.

That being said, how do we find the qualified masons of tomorrow?

Look. They are all around, such as the laborer that shows up every day on time, buys his own tools, and stays late. He is the one that jumps in and helps with your tasks, if that is what it takes. Once you have found a good candidate, get him into training.

Training does many things. It shows how dedicated he is by going to class, either after work, weekends, or instead of working that day. Training never pays as well as working, if it pays at all. Consequently, if he isn't interested in dedicating some time to studying the craft, it is unlikely he will be dedicated to his career.

Training also exposes talent. He may have a talent for the job that you didn't know existed.

The other great aspect of training is that the individual will have the time he needs to learn proper etiquette, work ethics, procedures, and installation methods in an environment without pressure of the employer's timeline. When the trainee completes the studies and hands-on training, he won't be a seasoned mason, but is in a position to perfect his craft, as well as his performance. You then have the luxury of concentrating on being a mason contractor.

This concept works. RMCA has been training about three years, and I already have two former trainees running their own crews. They are doing the work and managing lower-tiered employees, coordinating with the general contractor, and filling out the necessary paperwork to keep the job moving in the right direction (towards profitability).

Through the RMCA sanctioned training programs, you will find talent inside and outside the company, enabling it to grow, recognize employees that are dedicated to the masonry craft, and reward them with the responsibilities and challenges they desire.

RMCA training is a “win-win” situation.

? Mark VanWell has over 21 years of masonry experience, with 18 as a residential contractor in the State of Washington. His current focus is meeting the needs of production-style masonry for new construction builders and contractors.

He is the president and a charter member of the Residential Masonry Contractors Association (RMCA). He also trains workers to carry the craft forward to a new generation of up-and-coming masons.

Mark VanWell can be reached