Three generations of Creter Vault Corp.: left to right, son Matt; his father, Dick; 2-year-old Sean Richard; and his father, Rich, stand among the company's out door granite sculptures.
Recruiting the best and brightest
Recruitment is not limited to job fairs. Many employers are investing their time, visiting classrooms, and attending career days. Producers and associations are even talking about the industry and its benefits to children in elementary school.
As students begin thinking about vocations, the industry provides educational materials and sponsors scholarships for high school students interested in concrete-related work. The National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) sponsors a precast concrete essay contest for high school students looking into architecture, engineering, or construction careers, awarding up to 10 Educational Foundation Scholarships each year. Contests like these create a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Oldcastle Adams Products has been involved with student competitions for 25 years. In the early 1980s, masonry students and apprentices were only using clay brick; Adams introduced concrete masonry. Hardy believes students and apprentices in the Carolinas tend to excel in national competitions, partly because producers there are closely involved with schools. In fact, producers and associations actively encourage schools to keep developing vocational and design programs.
Adams invites students from area high schools to its Kinston, N.C., plant for an annual regional masonry competition. The company also co-sponsors competitions with associations. Adams provides materials and judges for an annual Department of Labor masonry contest for young apprentices at the North Carolina State Fair, organized by the North Carolina Mason Contractors Association (NCMCA).
Adams sponsors Final Four of Masonry contests each year in North and South Carolina, with the NCMCA, Carolina Concrete Masonry Association (CCMA), and Brick SouthEast. These competitions draw about 150 participants from high schools and vocational schools to compete for the state champion title.
This year, the Final Four winner in North Carolina also won the masonry competition at the National Leadership and Skills Conference in Kansas City, Mo. This annual Skills USA competition brings together students and industry representatives through a grassroots program reaching high schools, trade schools, and junior colleges.
The masonry portion is led by a Masonry Technical Committee, whose members include the Portland Cement Association (PCA), NCMA, Brick Industry Association (BIA) and Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA). Associations value this opportunity to interact with students in a positive way: scoring masonry competitions, hosting tours, and providing materials.
Associations also team up to address common goals and concerns. For a year, representatives from the NCMA, MCAA, International Masonry Institute/Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen, BIA, and the Building Stone Institute (BSI) have met as a joint Workforce Development Committee. Together they support education initiatives and industry competitions.
“We're all in it to expand and grow the industry,” says Harry Junk, NCMA residential market manager. “In the future, additional installers of these products, along with engineers and supervisors, will have to be recruited and trained to accomplish these goals.” It speaks volumes that two of the committee's four major initiatives focus on recruiting new employees: former military personnel and college students.
Many programs seek to create a positive connection with college students. The NCMA's Student Block Design Competition and the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute's (PCI) Big Beam Contest invite engineering and architecture students to practice working with concrete products and develop innovative techniques.
The industry also donates materials and financial support to schools. Involvement with programs like Concrete Technology at Rhodes State College in Ohio or Concrete Industry Management programs with students at Middle Tennessee State University, Arizona State University, California State University at Chico, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, are direct investments in the future.