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Laying foundation for future — and much-needed — masonry workers

Marble Falls High School freshman Arnulfo Salazar

Freshman Arnulfo Salazar learns to lay bricks during a masonry lesson at Marble Falls High School on Sept. 7. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Marble Falls High School students got a hands-on lesson in masonry, a trade facing a shortage of workers statewide. The Texas Masonry Council presented the bricklaying workshop on Thursday, Sept. 7.

“There’s definitely a need for masons,” said TMC Masonry Days coordinator Ashton White. “We need anybody we can get. We need laborers, we need bricklayers, we need superintendents, everybody. We are really in a place where we could stand to hire so many more people. It’s insane.”

The council is focused on showing students the tricks of the trade.

“We just want to build up the next generation and get them learning about it,” White said. “There’s older people retiring and there’s not that many people coming in, so we need to fill that gap and get these people in.”

TMC is a 501(c)6 nonprofit trade association that promotes the career by educating prospective masons.

“We’re an organization made up of masonry contractors and suppliers that are based all across Texas,” White said. “We cover the whole state. We do hands-on trainings for teachers and students.”

Texas Masonry Council in Marble Falls
Texas Masonry Council Masonry Days coordinator Ashton White travels across the state to teach students the craft and promote the profession. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Instructors came from across the state, including San Antonio, Copperas Cove, and San Saba, to teach the one-day workshop in Marble Falls.

“We train students all across Texas how to lay bricks and get their hands dirty,” White said.

MFHS construction teacher Leonard Venghaus invited TMC to his class because of the trade’s legacy in the Highland Lakes. 

“Marble Falls is built on masonry,” he said. “We quarried the rock. Masons shaped the rock. The masons put the Capitol of our state together because of Marble Falls. There should be a rich history of that. I don’t want to see it fade away.”

Venghaus said the bricklaying workshop enhanced his students’ understanding of the terminology and processes they learn in their textbooks.

“We learn it in a classroom and then we apply it in the shop,” he said. “If you learn chemistry, what do you have to do? You’ve got to do a lab. We’re a lab.” 

Students constructed brick walls during the lesson and then deconstructed them after it was over.

“We get to keep all the brick,” Venghaus said. “It may not be perfect, but we’ll use a high-pressure water hose and wash them off.”