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Bricklaying Apprenticeships in the UK

Learning from a Master - Bricklaying Apprenticeships in the UK

Time marches on, so we will never have the opportunity to sit at the feet of Plato, to learn to play the guitar with George Harrison as our teacher, or to study the art of leadership from Winston Churchill.  But like other vocational professions, bricklaying provides remarkable opportunities to learn from master craftsmen through apprenticeships that are growing in popularity and in opportunity.

It has been said that bricklaying has changed little over the 6000 years since the Egyptians built the pyramids, and the demand for skilled craftsmen has remained constant through the centuries.  Even though bricklaying schools (in the form of organized bricklaying apprenticeships) first appeared during the Middle Ages, they have retained the same basic objectives for more than 500 years.  Just as they have for centuries, bricklaying apprenticeships today focus on giving students opportunities to gain skills and grow their confidence by working with a master brick mason.  Just as important as the chance to learn skills is the opportunity to earn national credentials that will make these young men and women more attractive to employers across the UK.

Let's face it.  Even the very best students who are forced to sit in a classroom for endless hours that drag on into weeks and then months can lose their enthusiasm for getting their hands dirty and finding out for themselves just what their skill levels are.  Bricklaying courses put students on the job beside experienced masons who learned from their predecessors in the very same way, giving them the privilege of sharing wisdom passed down in the workplace for centuries.

Working side by side with their mentor, bricklaying apprentices spend 16 hours a week outside the classroom as they learn to build everything one can possibly imagine to do with a brick, from internal and external walls, to archways and chimney stacks, to decorative walls and archways.  Most apprenticeships are spread out over a period of two years and apprentices remain enrolled in college to continue their studies all the while.  They must be paid at least the minimum wage while serving as an apprentice, with part-time students earning a pro rata share.

Would-be bricklaying apprentices who are between the ages of 16 and 18 receive the benefits of having their studies fully-funded in the UK.  Those who fall into the 19 to 24 year old range are provided a large funding subsidy, while all others must pay the full costs of the instruction provided.  Students who enroll in the Level 2 apprenticeship focus on 5 mandatory and 1 optional units that include the basics of trowel occupations, intermediate construction, and key skills from Level 1 in communications and applications of number.  Level 3 consists of 9 mandatory units and 1 optional choice that provide higher level instruction, and confirm techniques of general workplace safety, work activities and resources, and developing and maintaining good working relationships.

Durable footwear and appropriate clothing round out the investments required of the student, but the most critical variable remains.  Those who want to be the best simply must be motivated and demonstrate a passion for their work.  For centuries, the qualified bricklayer has been part-engineer, part-artist, and part-builder.  It is a brotherhood that has provided the range of skills that built the British Empire.  Those who want to become a part of this band of brothers will find that the door that opens today into this opportunity to build a new society is the same one that has been used for hundreds of years.  Bricklaying apprenticeships are still an inclusive fraternity that remains open to all who are prepared to enter.
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