What is Masonry?
Masonry is the art of building in stone, clay, brick and concrete blocks. Masonry, also known as brick or stone work, has been an art throughout history. The Egyptian pyramids, the Roman Coliseum, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Parliament buildings - some of the world's most significant architectural achievements have been built with masonry. Throughout civilization, architects and builders have chosen masonry for its beauty, versatility, and durability. Masonry resists the destructive effects of time and weather, and remains beautiful for centuries. Today, everywhere you turn, you see the work of a skilled mason - in office buildings, homes, schools, factories, patios, fireplaces and more.
What Do Mason's Do
As a skilled mason (a.k.a. bricklayer), your contributions will last for generations. Masons work with brick, concrete block, glass block, tile, terra cotta and stone. Work can be simple, as in building a wall, or complex, as in installing an ornate exterior or constructing a skyscraper. No matter what the job, the skill and precision required by a mason cannot be replaced by machines.
As with many construction trades, masonry work is done outdoors. In the past, weather conditions often affected work schedules, but today, protective sheeting encloses work areas, allowing masons to work continuously throughout the year.
The work is very physical, involving the use of hand tools, power tools and material moving equipment. Every brick and block must be laid by hand, and requires the skill of a craftsman - a true artist. A skilled mason knows the different patterns, textures and colours that create an attractive finished product. Masons must also be able to read blueprints, understand building codes and be knowledgeable of industry safety guidelines and rules for handling hazardous materials. Each job presents new challenges that masons are called upon to address and solve.
What Characteristics Should I Have to Succeed?
As a mason, you should be physically fit, enjoy working outdoors, work well with your hands and have a good eye for precision. You will be expected to work quickly and precisely according to a prearranged schedule, to accurately follow blueprints, and to be flexible enough to adapt to various materials, techniques and conditions. As there is minimal supervision on most job sites, motivation, dependability and the ability to take initiative are all important characteristics of masons. You also need good interpersonal communication skills to interact with clients, foremen and co-workers, and an appreciation of architecture, design and proportion.
How Do I Learn the Masonry Trade?
As one of the most established forms of education in the world, apprenticeship is a sound method of teaching craftsmanship and skill training.
In Canada, apprenticeship training is different from other post-secondary education. As an apprentice:
You will already be employed and work with an employer who agrees to 'sponsor' and train you as an apprentice. To acknowledge this agreement, you and your employer will sign an apprenticeship agreement registered with your provincial/territorial government apprenticeship office;
Your employer monitors your progress and validates what you have been learning and the amount of hours you spend perfecting your new skill;
You receive a wage while you work - you earn while you learn.
Generally, you will alternate between periods of work 'on-the-job" (up to 80% of the time) and periods of 'in-class' instruction (up to 20% of the time). After you have fulfilled your on-the-job and in-class requirements you will take a provincial/territorial trade exam. When you pass the exam, you will have the legal right to work as a fully qualified tradesperson (also known as a 'journey person') in your province/territory.
How Do I Find An Employer?
No matter what the statistics say about demand for new masons, it can take a lot of hard work and determination to locate an employer to give an inexperienced apprentice an opportunity. Typical of the construction industry, most jobs are found through networking (word-of-mouth), but some positions are posted on job search websites such as Service Canada's Job Bank, www.jobbank.gc.ca. Many apprentices also find opportunities by beginning as a bricklayer's helper (also known as a mason tender or labourer). Don't get discouraged too quickly if an opportunity doesn't fall into your lap right away, the benefits will far outweigh the footwork once you gain some experience and hands-on knowledge of the industry.
Just a Few Facts:
Skilled trades people are important and vital to Canada's future prosperity. Global competition is intensifying due to the increased mobility of capital and labour, and the desire to obtain the best return on investment.