Kevin Sylvester, a long-term instructor in the Alpena Community College's Concrete Technology program, lectures students about lab safety.
Alpena Community College Kevin Sylvester, a long-term instructor in the Alpena Community College's Concrete Technology program, lectures students about lab safety.

In the last two years, every concrete industry executive has made difficult budget decisions, with each hoping that the decision to meet a short-term need will not diminish longterm growth.

Olin Joynton, president of Alpena Community College (ACC), Alpena, Mich., faced such a challenge this spring. His team was concerned about the declining enrollment of the industry's only associate degree program in Concrete Technology. Only 11 of its graduates participated in ACC's commencement in May. Graduation numbers had averaged about 30.

But only five incoming freshmen enrolled for this fall, compared to 35 students not long ago, with more on awaiting list. Although it's true that most incoming students register in late summer just before the semester starts, Joynton was concerned the industry's general decline would aff ect enrollment in the Concrete Technology program.

The State of Michigan also warned educational institutions to prepare for significant budget cuts. ACC proposed to meet these constraints by considering staff cutbacks in departments with declining enrollment.

In April, ACC notified the instructor who taught freshman level courses in Concrete Technology of a possible layoff. The administration's plan was to open freshman enrollment every other year to consolidate faculty. This would close enrollment to the 2011 incoming freshman class. To many, this would have been the beginning of the program's end.

Coming together

Fortunately, in a three-week period, a dynamic group of alumni, industry leaders, current employers of graduates, and the program's advisory board pleaded the case for continuing annual freshman enrollment. Th eir reasoning was solid: There are more jobs available than current graduates. And as the industry starts to recover, the Concrete Degree graduate would continue to be in demand. Supporters believed better promotion was the program's challenge.

They were heard. After meeting with the industry, ACC Board of Trustees Chairman John Briggs and Joynton announced freshman enrollment would open for the fall. "Th is course correction comes in response to strong support and offers to help with recruiting and contributions to the program from advisory committee members, graduates of the program, ACC employees, and community members," said Joynton.

The school has announced two initiatives to encourage incoming students to enroll by July 14.

First, the ACC Foundation is making available 20 $500 new Concrete Tech scholarships, each designated for first-year students entering the program this fall. Th ese scholarships are off ered on a first-come, first-serve basis. To receive the scholarship, students must apply to ACC and enroll in the Concrete Tech program for the fall 2011 semester, which starts in August.

The department hosts an open house on July 12. Attendees will tour ACC's World Center for Concrete Technology, meet with faculty, and learn about financial aid. Th en students will then take placement testing and enroll in classes.

To learn more about the Concrete Technology program, contact Mike Kollien at 989-358-7339 or

Concrete on Facebook

To help keep the recently formed ACC Concrete Technician community together, Gregg Schefferly started a Facebook account called Green Cement. "I hope this could allow some of the orginal graduates to interact with the more recent graduates," says Schefferly, a former Concrete Technology program instructor. He launched the account to enable everyone to stay in touch and help one another in their careers.

"The graduates of the Concrete Technology program are a family and I believe this site will foster better communication," he said.