A few days ago, there was a report in USA Today describing educators' concerns about the shortage of students currently studying civil engineering. According to David Mongan, president-elect for the American Society of Civil Engineers, the industry needs a 10-15 % increase in civil engineering graduates in the next 10 years. "We simply don't have enough trained civil engineers to do the work that's demanded today," he said.

In the last two weeks, I've been in the field visiting manufacturers, producers, and contractors who comprise our industry. Every key executive with whom I spoke shared Mongan's concern. They told me that recruiting quality workers is by far their biggest problem. If this problem exists in an economy which has softened, what will happen when activity increases?

Fortunately, the reinforcements are on the way. About 120 new graduates from the four Concrete Industry Management (CIM) programs are expected to enter our industry this year. And if the projections are correct, future graduates will increase at about a 25% annual rate. By 2010, there could be as many as 500 new men and women entering our industry.

But this effort has a cost. Our CIM programs need a stable source of funding so that the institutions can continue to develop new curriculum, endow faculty positions, and provide scholarships to worthy students. There's even talk about adding another CIM program in the next year or so.

Hanley Wood LLC, publisher of The Concrete Producer, has again agreed to help do its part. We are proud to host the 3rd Annual CIM Auction at World of Concrete. Last year, organizers raised about $425,000. This year, Wally Johnson, the auction committee chairman, hopes to double that.

I urge you to consider becoming involved in this year's auction. The committee is continuing to solicit auction items. And new this year, individuals or small manufacturers can donate vacation packages and sports memorabilia.

When the auction begins at noon, Thursday, Jan. 24, please come to the Ritchie Bros. event at World of Concrete, or log onto the Internet to place your bids.

You can learn all of the details by visiting the Concrete Industry Management's Web site at www.concretedegree.com.

Read past blog posts by Rick Yelton here.