How does our industry recruit young men and women into masonry when, for at least the last two generations, parents and educators have been preaching, “Stay in school and get good grades so you can get a ‘good' job. After all, do you really want to end up as a construction worker?” Blue collar work has been looked down upon for far too long.
The movement to educate and improve the lives of our children, above our own, was started in an era when working with your hands meant a minimum wage job. Don't get me wrong, education is essential, but not everyone will aspire to be a brain surgeon or rocket scientist. It's ridiculous to think a college education is the only way to succeed in life.
We also preach, “You can be anything you want to be in life if you just work hard.” But really, not everyone who works hard will be an NBA star or pitch a no-hitter in the World Series.
Let's face it. You can only do so much with a bag of potatoes, but that's not to say there aren't a thousand and one things you can do with a potato. I feel that high school and college counselors, parents, and families and friends of our young adults are doing them an injustice by not showing them the value and rewards of a blue collar job.
And most importantly, masonry is a very rewarding and fulfilling career.
For the rest of your life, your children's lives, and possibly beyond, it can be proudly stated that “I worked on that job,” or “my Dad did that brickwork,” or “my grandpa worked on that building.” Masonry spans many generations. I'm a third-generation brick contractor with brothers, cousins, nephews, nephew-in-laws, and sons in bricklaying and I don't want to lose our trade.
As a trade and as individuals, we have sat on our laurels much too long. We have allowed other building products to walk all over us and use us as a ladder rung to create an advantage. We have allowed society and educators to steer the youth of today away from blue collar work.
I want my grandchildren's grandchildren to be able to make a living and have a career in masonry, if they so choose. If we don't take a proactive approach to promoting and training our craft, future generations may never have the opportunity to follow in our footsteps.
So, back to the question, “How do we recruit and promote masonry?”
We must first strip away the stigma that masonry is “too hard” and “too dirty.” It is hard and dirty but not “too.” The physical exertion is far outweighed by the emotional rewards of accomplishment. What would we have today if Michelangelo said it was “too hard and too dirty” to paint the Sistine Chapel or carve David.