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Contractor creates the first state-approved bricklayer apprenticeship program in Western New York aimed at independent tradesman
Move reflects leveling of the playing field for “open-shop” contractors

ROCHESTER, N.Y., May 3, 2007 – Bloomfield-based F.G. Rayburn Mason Contractors Inc. today announced that the New York State Department of Labor (NYDOL) has formally recognized its bricklayer apprenticeship program, making it the first state-approved program of its kind in Western New York for independent tradesman.

The state’s approval means workers interested in learning a skilled trade can do so with their employer and without required union membership. “Until now, the only way to participate in a state-approved apprenticeship program was to pay your dues and join a union,” said Floyd Rayburn, president of F.G. Rayburn Mason Contractors Inc. “The NYSDOL approval opens the door to all men and women who want to learn the mason trade.”

The NYDOL has sanctioned a handful of apprenticeship programs run by independent contractors (commonly called merit shops) across the state. The move is significant because it helps level the playing field in the highly competitive construction industry. Most merit shops offer “craft training” programs, but until recently only union apprenticeship programs got the state’s seal of approval.

This shift affects the labor market in western New York because it’s likely to make the bidding process – especially on large construction projects – more competitive, according to Rayburn.

Many large construction projects – especially public works such as school or stadium construction – do not allow contractors to use apprentice labor if the workers are not associated with a state-approved program. Apprentice labor is significant when bidding on a job because it keeps project cost estimates down. This situation made it more difficult for merit shops to compete.

“Until now, we didn’t have the advantage of paying an apprenticeship wage,” Rayburn said. “In New York State 77 percent of the construction workforce is independent, yet many of these workers are locked out of work because of certain practices and regulations that hinder competition.”

Leveling the playing field through state-approved apprenticeship programs and other efforts has the potential to create more jobs and attract more business to the state, said Rayburn whose firm has done work for Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester Institute of Technology, Roberts Wesleyan College, Seneca Park Zoo, F.F. Thompson Hospital and several school districts. More competition also will help reduce the cost of publicly funded construction projects, saving taxpayer dollars, he said.

Rayburn said he is hopeful incremental changes will lead to other improvements in industry practices. “It makes me feel good to know we’re doing something, even small, to try to keep jobs in New York State,” Rayburn said.

Rayburn currently has two apprentices in the program, which includes on-the-job and classroom training. “We were very pleased to win the official stamp of approval from the Department of Labor because it assures our customers that work done by the apprentices is closely monitored by us and by a NYSDOL Apprenticeship Training representative,” Rayburn said. “Our ultimate goal is to train skilled craftsmen and give them the opportunity to work where they live - in Western New York.”

For more information about the apprenticeship program or to contact F.G. Rayburn Mason Contractors, go to www.fgrmasonry.com.