Apprenticeship is a formal program that usually involves two to four years of structured instruction, coupled with hands-on training. Many apprenticeship programs are registered within the Department of Labor and have to meet a minimum training criteria established by the government. This strategy worked for many decades and was the driving force to retain market share for assemblies dependent on trained and skilled trade workers. When apprenticeship numbers in our trades began to dwindle, defect litigation claims soon followed and grew directly with a decrease in apprenticeship. To me, this was not a coincidence.  

Apprenticeship was the best method of passing along skills, knowledge and trade techniques for the workers. And the loss of apprenticeship hit the construction industry hard. Try thinking of a craft more skill-intensive than lath and plaster. Not a lot comes to mind, right? We expect tougher codes and standards to fix the lack of skilled-labor problems but they can’t. We need training and education, and it needs to be verifiable to the decision-makers.    

The Stucco Manufacturers Association—in partnership with the Florida Lath and Plaster Bureau and the Texas Lathing and Plastering Contractors Association—spent two years developing a training/education course for lathers and plasterers. The course was formally introduced in a SMA meeting presentation on November 4 to an audience of architects, consultants, dealers, manufacturers and supervisors. Attendees joined from all over the country.

Program Overview

There are five modules covering lathing and plastering. Each module runs 30 minutes and has an option of English or Spanish. While there are many reasons to train or educate, a couple of contractors in attendance summed it up best with their on-air comments. 

Richie Loaiza of SMV Stucco in Florida commented, “The program was perfect for my guys. Most only speak Spanish and we have had issues communicating about what was most important. These Spanish modules hit home on the ‘why’ and I saw the light go on as they watched the video in Spanish and got it.”    

There was a time when we were all proud to be journeymen lathers or plasterers; we need to bring that passion back. By completing the training videos, a worker becomes eligible to take tests and gets a picture ID training card that lists the modules they’ve completed. This has helped restore some pride in being skilled in a craft. Kevin Maxwell, of Prime Wall Systems, out of Texas agrees: “I have sons and I want them to take over my business someday but the lack of respect in our trade made me question this goal. I think this program has real potential to change that and re-instill pride in being a lather or plasterer.”

Highlights were provided of each module and it became clear to the audience that this was not a program on just quoting the code. We aimed to explain the why: 

Why do we use two layers of paper? 

Which cornerbead is best suited? 

Why do we hard float the brown coat? 

There were safety and skill enhancement tips as well. These training modules are perfect for those entering the trades but have value to seasoned pros as well. Now you may be asking yourself, “What high cost do I have to pay to gain all of these valuable training materials?” Well, that’s the best part yet. They are all free at

Level Up

After the first five modules, you reach module six. Module six is tailored to those who supervise lath or plaster work. This course includes another narrated video, a manual, teaches risk management and best practices to protect your company. The manual is targeted towards lath and plaster supervisors who deal with difficult situations and people. It also includes building science, codes, standards, data, technical bulletins and how to maximize their use. There has never been a class like this for lath and plaster supervisors. The test is tough. It requires passing 150 questions on trade, codes, building science and management abilities. However, it is worth it as this is the gateway to becoming an SMA Certified Contractor.

SMA Contractor Certification

The final piece is SMA Contractor Certification. Contractors have the opportunity to become certified after a reference and background check. Contractors must have an SMA supervisor on staff. What’s the point to being SMA certified?  

Becoming SMA certified will help ease fears and provide some desperately needed unity in our industry. The videos will improve lathers and plasterers’ knowledge base, production levels and protect the contractor and building owner. The SMA has two upcoming webinars on stucco applications. On December 3, I will present an AIA CEU Webinar on hard coat stucco with Building Envelope. This is sponsored by Plastic Components, QUIKRETE Cos., SPEC MIX, Structa Wire and Keene Building Products. Register at And on December 9, there is a presentation that covers stucco from a contractor’s perspective. This course will cover what contractors need to know, such as upcoming code changes and better plans to protect oneself. This is sponsored by Plastic Components, QUIKRETE Cos. and SPEC MIX and will be done with W&C. Register at