Acme Brick, Texas Masonry Council jumpstart mason training network

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William Kaufman is among initial students at the UTA-backed masonry school.

The University of Texas at Arlington’s (UTA) Division of Enterprise Development has partnered with more than 20 companies and organizations to launch two masonry schools that will address a bricklayer shortage in the Lone Star State.

Fort Worth-based Acme Brick has led the initiative with a $50,000 donation. Contractors and manufacturers from across the state, along with the Texas Masonry Council, have likewise donated money and in-kind contributions totaling more than $225,000 to jumpstart the schools. UTA has leased space close to home—in the Grand Prairie Great Southwest Industrial District—and the northern area of Houston.

UTA Division for Enterprise Development Executive Director Bryan Sims notes that the effort is a new training initiative for teaching construction trades through the university extension. “There were so many contractors and project managers coming to us and saying they couldn’t find qualified masons,” he affirms. “This fits in nicely with what we do at the Division—to prepare workers for the workforce.”

Citing his company as the source for the finest building products in the marketplace, Acme Brick CEO Dennis Knautz observes nevertheless, “If no one is available to install our brick, block and stone, builders and contractors will understandably look to alternative materials. In recent years, this has become an acute issue as we have witnessed many long-tenured masons retiring or leaving the trade altogether for the oil patch or other industries.” As the masonry industry leader, he adds, Acme believed it needed to help initiate a program that could provide the training necessary to move interested job-seekers into masonry careers.

“[UTA] staff has been extraordinarily receptive, helpful and creative in putting together this program that should help ease our industry’s shortage of masons by developing candidates who will be qualified for good-paying jobs. We are excited about partnering with UTA, and hope others in our industry will follow our lead and support this effort,” Knautz concludes.

UTA Division for Enterprise Development is offering a level one training certification program as an eight-week, accelerated discipline. “It’s been created to train individuals faster, allowing them to enter the workforce sooner,” explains Texas Masonry Council Manager Lindsey Stringer. “The construction climate in Texas is to continuing grow at a steady pace, resulting in an overwhelming demand for masons.”

Program graduates will have a thorough understanding of brick and concrete masonry unit construction, earn a 10-hour OSHA certification card, and have the potential to earn a substantial starting salary, he adds. Many Texas masonry contractors offer 401k matching benefits and health insurance benefits, and are looking forward to employing young men and women entering the masonry field. Classes will be taught in English and Spanish in both the Grand Prairie and Houston locations. A strategic plan calls for program expansion into the Austin, central Texas and San Antonio markets.