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Live Debt Free with a Career in Construction

By: Amanda Pedersen

Pennsylvania native, Zach Poulson, 29, has always had a passion for science and creativity.

While in college, Poulson found himself working in the masonry trades to make ends meet while completing his degree in Earth Sciences.

“Working construction was a natural fit for me because the work was interesting,” Poulson said. He recalled spending summer days working with different mixtures, tools and stones–most of which he was studying in his geology classes.

After Poulson graduated from college, he moved to Minneapolis. In the Twin Cities, he picked up another job in the masonry trades in an effort to start paying off his mounting student debt.

“I did not want to be one of those guys paying off my student loans for 20 years because of a low-paying career,” Poulson said. “I knew a fast way to pay off my debt was through the high wages in the masonry trade.”

The masonry job he worked in college had no room for advancement and a capped salary, so Poulson decided it was time to think seriously about a career in construction. His first step was to inquire about joining a union as an apprentice.

“I found the Bricklayer and Allied Craftworkers Local 1 Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota and was impressed with the pay and benefits,” said Poulson. “I applied and was placed as an apprentice in stone and brick laying.”

Introduction to Apprenticeship
Masonry workers use bricks, concrete blocks, concrete, and other natural and man-made stones to build walls, fences, walkways, and other masonry structures. The work of a brick and stone mason is creative and always changing.

Poulson’s work environment also changes almost daily. He’s completed projects such as apartment buildings, parking garages, grocery stores and even car washes.

Poulson’s apprenticeship through the BAC Local 1 Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota is a three-year program where he works a 40-hour work week under the guidance of many experienced masonry professionals.

“The union ensures your working standards so that you can retire and you don’t have to worry about your body not being able to keep up with you,” Poulson said. “I think it’s a common misconception that a career in the trades will ruin your body. Unions use health, safety and retirement precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Build bonds as strong as brickwork. Watch Zachary Poulson describe his construction experience.

Poulson also attends night class every other week at the BAC training center where he learns about new masonry techniques and materials to use on the job site.

“Every stone and brick I work with has its own story,” Poulson said. “The job as a mason allows you to be artistic and creative, and that’s my favorite part.”

Poulson enjoys the artistic side of his work and also appreciates the high wages and benefits such as health insurance and a retirement pension that come with his apprenticeship.

“I also now have a network of individuals who are dedicated to making my job site safe and holding me up to a certain standard,” Poulson added.

Poulson’s Future Aspirations with Career in Masonry
With Poulson’s career as a union mason, he can officially say he’s debt free from his student loans.

“Everyday I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” Poulson said. “Every person’s path is different and I’m happy that I chose a career in the construction trades.”

In the future, Poulson is hoping to become a foreman and run his own team.

“I love bricklaying because I get to walk away every day from the job site knowing that I built something that wasn’t there when I walked on,” Poulson said. “I work with stack bonds, archways, angled bricks, and protruding bricks of all shapes and sizes everyday. To me, that’s fun.”

To learn more about a career in the masonry trades, check out