Most cement masons, concrete finishers, segmental pavers, and terrazzo workers learn their trades either through on-the-job training as helpers, or through 3-year or 4-year apprenticeship programs. Many masons and finishers first gain experience as construction laborers. (See the statement on construction laborers
elsewhere in the Handbook.)
When hiring helpers and apprentices, employers prefer high school graduates who are at least 18 years old and in good physical condition, and who have a driverís license. The ability to get along with others also is important because cement masons frequently work in teams. High school courses in general science, vocational-technical subjects, mathematics, blueprint reading, or mechanical drawing provide a helpful background.
On-the-job training programs consist of informal instruction, in which experienced workers teach helpers to use the tools, equipment, machines, and materials of the trade. Trainees begin with tasks such as edging, jointing, and using a straightedge on freshly placed concrete. As training progresses, assignments become more complex, and trainees can usually do finishing work within a short time.
Three-year or four-year apprenticeship programs, usually jointly sponsored by local unions and contractors, provide on-the-job training in addition to a recommended minimum of 144 hours of classroom instruction each year. A written test and a physical exam may be required. In the classroom, apprentices learn applied mathematics, blueprint reading, and safety. Apprentices generally receive special instruction in layout work and cost estimation. Some workers learn their jobs by attending trade or vocational-technical schools.
Cement masons, concrete finishers, segmental pavers, and terrazzo workers should enjoy doing demanding work. They should take pride in craftsmanship and be able to work without close supervision.
With additional training, cement masons, concrete finishers, segmental pavers, or terrazzo workers may become supervisors for masonry contractors. Some eventually become owners of businesses employing many workers and may spend most of their time as managers rather than practicing their original trade. Others move into closely related areas such as construction management, building inspection, or contract estimation.