Meridian High School senior Kendra Guthrie is mixing cement, cutting chicken wire and placing stone on a front porch of a new Habitat for Humanity home — all to prepare for college.
“It’s about getting your hands dirty,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie wants to be a structural engineer and plans to attend Boise State University to study engineering. Sophomore year she decided to take masonry as an elective and it turned into a passion. Guthrie is one of six girls and nearly 40 students enrolled in the West Ada School District’s masonry program. Students learn the structural components of how to build using cement, cinder blocks, stone and marble.
“Masonry class has jump-started my love for engineering,” Guthrie said. “I think it’s interesting how structures can stay up.”
If Guthrie passes level three of the program she can earn a National Center for Construction Education and Research Certification. Instructor Greg Valdez has more than 30 years of experience as a mason and helped construct The Village at Meridian and the remodel of the Idaho State Capitol building. He believes masonry isn’t going away anytime soon.
“Masonry will last forever if it is properly maintained,” Valdez said. “It is fireproof and we need that in all structures.”
The number of jobs in the masonry professions is anticipated to grow more than 40 percent until 2022, according to the Idaho Department of Labor Occupational and Industry Projections.
“You are guaranteed work if you have skills in this area and if you have the right work ethic,” said Christi Rood, executive director of Workforce Development at the College of Western Idaho (CWI).
Masonry classes have been offered at the West Ada School District since 2007. This fall, CWI is partnering with the West Ada School District in part of a $25,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Labor. While high school students are taking masonry during the day, adults are taking the class in the evenings at the Meridian High School lab.
“It’s a great combination or resources and expertise,” Rood said. “This is a great environment to create a collaboration with K-12 and higher education.”
The medium wage in Idaho for a mason is between $37,890 and $43,530 per year, according to the Department of Labor.
For Guthrie, taking an elective class for enjoyment has now set her on a career path.
“The class is very unique and I can’t wait to use my skills when I move onto college,” Guthrie said.
If you’re interested in the CWI masonry program, learn more here.