At this time of year the cement masons and plasterers apprentices from Local 633 turn their indoor training center floor in New Brighton, Minn., into a winter wonderland. The theme of this year’s Concrete Christmas project was “Christmas at a Northern Lodge” which featured a dual fireplace with a 15-foot chimney. “Everything we are doing here has a real world application,” explained Brian Farmer, Apprenticeship Coordinator of Local 633 Journeyman and Apprentice JATC Training Center. “While it has an educational function, it does show the artistic nature of what can be done with concrete and plaster.” As is the case every year, the work is divided up amongst the first, second and third year apprentices, because each group has a particular skill level. Construction started Mon., Nov. 8 and finished on Mon., Dec. 6.
Often referred to as “the other four year degree,” apprentice worked-based training is an “earn while you learn” system offering students a chance to learn from the most skilled construction workers in the U.S. They start as apprentices and graduate as journey workers, a critical talent pipeline building future American infrastructure.
Nowhere is the need for more apprentices and journey workers in the to load the pipeline more acute than in the cement masons trade. There are only 1,000 cement masons in Minnesota. “The demand is huge,” said Farmer. “Even during the pandemic in 2020, we had 1.4 million worker hours that year. That’s an incredible amount of work.”