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TRADE OF THE MONTH: TILE SETTER

If you’re looking for a career field with high expected job growth and want opportunities to learn new skills through mentorship classes and training, consider becoming a tile setter.

Tile setters, also known as tile installers, lay tile in homes and buildings, including the floors and walls in bathrooms and kitchens. Laying tile requires excellent customer service and time management skills as well as experience with computer-aided design, cost estimating and project management software. Employment of tile installers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of U.S. Labor Statistics. The construction of new housing units will be the primary source of flooring, tile, and marble installation work over the next decade.

For young people looking to become a tile installer there are a number of online resources to consult. First, check out the ConstructionCareers.org website and the Construction Trades mobile app (available on Google Play and App Stores) both created by the Twin Cities-based nonprofit, Construction Careers Foundation.

“The Construction Careers Foundation believes that there is a construction trade career for everyone — and we want to provide opportunities, knowledge and access to students across Minnesota to encourage them to take the first big step toward their career after high school,” said Sarah Lechowich, senior director for the Construction Careers Foundation.

In Minnesota, there is a tile setter training center in New Hope – the MN/ND Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Journeyman and Apprentice Training Center. The Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local Union 1 Minnesota/North Dakota also has a physical meeting location in Minneapolis.

As of June 1, 2019, the current starting pay for a first-year apprentice is $33.24 per hour. After the first year, apprentices typically receive a raise every 6 months upon meeting the minimum requirements of their apprenticeship program. Here are some interesting facts to know:

● Average tile setter income in Minnesota: $35k-80k/year.
● The tile setter apprenticeship program generally lasts two-to-four years.
● Apprentices earn a wage while they learn.
● Benefits: health care, dental and a pension.

Tile setter training programs require specific skills, which the apprenticeship program will teach — but before young people enter the program, the Construction Careers Foundation provides information and how to prepare for a career in tile setting. View the Construction Career Pathways’ Tile page.

Students can prepare to start a tile setter apprenticeship while still in high school. To do so, start with building relevant experience through construction courses, shop courses, and math and science courses.

Students interested in the tile trades should consider applying for the BAC Local 1’s pre-apprenticeship program. The six-week pre apprenticeship is a competency-based, self-paced training program. Each of the six units are approximately one week. Each unit contains a combination of hands on mock-ups and related classroom instruction. The related classroom instruction is designed to support the development of hands-on whole trade skills, trade math, safety training, basic layouts, job professionalism, trade history and labor-management relations. The program is geared toward recent high school graduates.

Here are the four most important pieces of advice our professional mentors would share with a student before he/she chooses to pursue a career as a tile setter:

1. Work hard and be flexible to new working hours. Most flooring installers and tile and marble setters work full time. In commercial settings, they may need to work evenings and weekends to avoid disturbing regular business operations.

2. Several organizations offer certification for floor and tile installers. Although certification is not required, it demonstrates that a tile setter has a specific mastery of skills to do a job, and typically translates into more income and specialized career opportunities.

3. Always wear your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Installing flooring, tile, and marble is physically demanding, requiring workers to spend much of their time reaching, bending, and kneeling. Workers typically wear kneepads while kneeling; safety goggles when using grinders, saws, and sanders; and dust masks or respirator systems to prevent inhaling work-generated dust in enclosed areas with poor ventilation.

4. You make your own success. Some keys to being successful in the trades include showing up every day on time; honing your math skills; being able to follow directions; and doing the job asked of you.

For Sharlo Strickler, a second-year tile setter apprentice through the BAC Local 1 Minnesota/North Dakota/ South Dakota Tilelayers and Bricklayers Union, the best part of her job is the people.

“I love being a union member. People always have your back. It truly is a brotherhood/sisterhood,” Sharlo said. “We have weekly safety meetings, and it’s a nice way to network with other trade professionals. You cannot go wrong with being in a union.”

A strong career choice for strong women. Watch Sharlo Strickler describe her construction experience.

Sharlo’s advice to future tile setters:

“In uncertain times, I have job security knowing that my union provides me with a pension and healthcare,” said Sharlo. “Never underestimate the personal and professional benefits of learning a skill through the trades.”

Read Sharlo’s story.

Visit ConstructionCareers.org for more information on the apprenticeship process and the benefits of joining a union. Also resource the page to learn more about the 30+ careers in Minnesota’s construction industry.