They wear hardhats, not elf hats, but for four weeks each fall the Cement Masons Local 633 apprentices transform their training facility into something like Santa’s workshop. They plan and create their annual “Concrete Christmas” project, practicing skills and learning new techniques and being as creative as they can be in applying colored and textured finishes to concrete.

All the work involved, emphasized instructor Brian Farmer, involves the same skills, tools, and materials that apprentices use in the field. “Everything is functional, even though it looks like a lot of fluff… We throw in the fun element to engage them a little more.”

This year, the project also included major contributions from Plasterers Local 265 apprentices and Latherers Local 1147 apprentices. “It’s nice we can be unified in this training space,” Farmer said, since the different trades also work together in the field.

“There’s so much to learn,” commented Mike Kroll, Robbinsdale, a third-year Local 633 apprentice. “Concrete is in every aspect of building. There’s a lot of opportunity.” And, he added, his apprentice wage “supports the family.”

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