Local brick masons were stacking for success on Friday afternoon. The best of the best went head to head in an event designed to generate interest in their profession.
The News On 6's Chris Wright reports brick masons say despite the high pay, their numbers have been depleted by retirement and Oklahoma's tough new immigration law. They hope events like Friday's will help build their profession back up.
With that, Oklahoma's top masons began working furiously on their walls. Competitors in the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 had one hour to lay as many bricks as possible, while at the same time being judged on craftsmanship.
Skilled masons are becoming more of a rarity in Green Country. Contractors say some are retiring, and kids are not interested in replacing them. They also say since House Bill 1804 became law in November, many Hispanic masons have left the state.
"For years the industry has suffered for a lack of masonry, carpentry, all the skilled trades," said Charlie Boyd of Ashgrove Packaging.
"What's happening is there's a lot of masons retiring, there's not a whole lot of young masons coming up," said Brian Weber of Ashgrove Packaging.
Some aspiring masons were on hand for the competition though.
Tulsa Technology student Stephen Ferguson helped mix mortar. He first learned the craft from his grandfather and plans on going into the family business.
"It's a rare breed that wants to get out in the heat and build," said Ferguson.
While masons do not claim that it is easy work, it is a lucrative profession. People can make as much as $100,000 a year laying brick in Oklahoma and contractors say there are plenty of jobs available for those willing to build from the ground up.
The winner of Friday's competition was given an all-expense-paid-trip and will compete in the national competition held in Las Vegas next year.
Tulsa Technology Center says there has been renewed interest in its Masonry Technology Program. The school says the program is nearly full this year.