Many contractors ask, “What is the advantage of sending my men to an apprenticeship school when I can train them on my own?”

The answer, “Because they get more well-rounded training.”

The contractor is thinking, “Aw, B.S. I can teach them everything that there is to know.”

This last statement may be true for a few companies, but the majority needs help in training apprentices. Even if a company performs all aspects of masonry work, there may be extended periods of time between repeating the same tasks.

For example, consider fireplaces. In years past, fireplaces were the mainstay of the residential market. Almost every home had one and, maybe, exterior veneer. Now, very few homes have fireplaces, with just minimal areas of exterior veneer.

This change has wreaked havoc with the residential trade. Not only is the contractor losing market share, he no longer has the opportunity to train new men in the art of intricate and custom fireplaces. Soon, there won't be anyone qualified to build a fireplace. Architects will not design, nor will home owners ask, for real masonry fireplaces.

An apprentice training program teaches masonry knowledge over and over again, so understanding is learned by repetition and will be retained for years, versus teaching only when the opportunity arises. A procedure is easily forgotten when it's been a year since the last time the worker performed a particular masonry task.

By using the “retraining” approach in-house, the contractor is not producing a “doer,” but only a “follower.” No aspect of masonry, whether it's fireplace building, vapor barrier installation, and natural stone, brick, manufactured stone, or block laying (to mention only a few), can be fully learned and become second nature if not repeated on a regular basis.

The Residential Masonry Contractors Association's apprentice school gives students the hands-on training and knowledge of “why” a process is performed the way it is. The students become “doers,” leaders, and more desirable employees. Formal training with a state-accredited program, when completed, is a feather in the cap of both the former apprentice and the employing contractor.

The employer can certify to the homeowners, general contractors, and architects that the mason working on the job is a well educated and knowledgeable journeyman. Completion of the training program is an accomplishment the students will have for the rest of their lives.