Apprenticeship Insight From Michigan Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers

Our apprenticeship manager, Wanda Bigelow, sat down recently with Howard Hipes, Apprenticeship and training coordinator for the Michigan Bricklayers and Allies Craftworkers Training Center. With over 38 years of experience in the craft, Howard guides us through the advantages of an apprenticeship, learning many things before you ever see them on the job site. He explains working conditions based on the different job types, talks about the many occupations that are under the bricklayer’s umbrella, and dispels myths around unions. 

You might be thinking, what are Bricklayers? “Bricklayers work on new construction as well as restorations,” Howard said. “They will build new buildings like schools, malls, (and) historical buildings such as courthouses or halls of justice.” 

In what they create, there is a lot of decorative work on existing structures and even new structures. “A lot of what we do is seen by everyone, and being the final product, sometimes it can be pretty artsy,” Howard shared. 

There are several occupations under the bricklayer’s umbrella. As an example, bricklayers include brick, block, and stone. There are also tile setters, tile finishers, plasterers, cement finishers, and refractory. 

To apply for an apprenticeship, most requirements are the same:

-Need to be at least 17,

-Need a high school diploma or GED, birth certificate

-Drivers license

-Reliable transportation

-ACT work keys assessments. 

Most of your time in the apprenticeship is spent in the classroom. You are earning while your learning. You would apply to the program and then go through an oral interview, if you’re accepted, you go into classroom training which is also a lab, being very hands-on. This is the technical training before they’re in the field. Howard tells us, “There are some important qualities you need in the trades to be successful. You have to be willing to work in all kinds of different elements — heat, cold, it’s fast-paced, a lot of endurance involved, heavy lifting and working at a steady pace all day long, and most importantly, show up every day on time with a good attitude,” Howard noted.