U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, toured Marshalltown's bricklayers training building Tuesday afternoon.
Discussing the expansion of programs that offer non-traditional educational opportunities was the purpose of the Congressman's visit.
With cutbacks in education, Braley said it is a shame how much marketable skills like bricklaying often fall by the wayside.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
An apprentice at Marshalltown’s bricklayers training building demonstrates his trade during a visit by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley on Tuesday.
"I think I am one of the few members of Congress that took four years of shop," he said. "Now ... you hardly see that offered."
Jeffery Smith, business manager at the local Iowa International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Contractors, 601 S. 12th Ave., said too much emphasis is placed on youth attending college.
"Oodles of high school students have no idea what an apprenticeship program is," he said. "College isn't for everyone."
Some estimates put as many as 3,000 jobs in Iowa unfilled because employers are unable to find workers with the skills needed to fill positions, said Jeff Giertz, communications director for Braley's office.
"One thing Congressman Braley feels Congress isn't doing enough of is equipping workers with the skills to fill these jobs," he said.
Documentation to corroborate the above number could not be obtained by press time.
The bricklayers union has 22 apprentices who are required to go through 12 weeks of training before spending four years as apprentices. Apprentices must then spend 1,000 hours a year doing job training and 144 hours a year doing job-related training at the training building, said Chris Busch, apprentice coordinator.
"It isn't easy work. I like hard work. I like challenging work," said Freddy Bacon, 24, a pre-apprentice.
Busch told Braley that many engineers need to be more familiar with the capabilities of different kinds of brick.
"The bricks they make in Florida, is not the same bricks we make here in Iowa," he said.
Masonry can be economic, he said, so long as architects and engineers understand the capabilities of the materials used when they design buildings.
Often, they have a tendency to "over engineer," he said.
Braley said he is committed to funding these types of programs. His New Era bill funds community college training programs to fill positions in the renewable energy industry.