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Advancing the Masonry Business by Degrees

Dr. Heather Jean Brown

Concrete Industry Management at Middle Tennessee State University

There is a lot of competition attracting the Millennial Generation to the work force. This most educated generation will make up more than half the workforce by 2015. Universities want to train these young enthusiasts. Certain sectors of the industry will attract them right out of high school. According to Forbes magazine in 2014, the top 25 companies’ young people strive to work for range from the Mayo Clinic to Starbucks to Walt Disney World and even the FBI.

Nowhere on this list does a top construction or architect/engineering firm appear – much less a producer or supplier of construction materials. Dinner conversation between parents and high school graduates likely does not include the historical significance of cement and our worldwide infrastructure.

With the average university offering nearly 200 different degree programs, how can the masonry industry attract young professionals into the field? Is it enough to identify the industry with the various engineering disciplines that produce skilled learners with little to no affinity for masonry materials?

Bachelor of Science Degree for Masonry Partnerships between industry and academia have become imperative to attract young people into construction jobs. In the early 1990s a movement began called Ready Mix Concrete 2000 (RMC 2000) in which the concrete industry, supported by the Portland Cement Association, decided that a focused partnership between academia and business was necessary for competitiveness and rapid technological change occurring globally.

The vision of a Bachelor of Science degree became one of RMC 2000 initiatives and this led a group of industry champions to approach Middle Tennessee State University. A unique partnership was formed with a long-term commitment to develop curriculum and promote the program through time, talent and treasure. The degree was named Concrete Industry Management (CIM) and, fittingly, the first graduates crossed the stage in May 2000.

The degree has been reshaped over the last 15 years to include focus the curriculum on concrete masonry production, materials, testing, troubles hooting, inspection and technical sales. A graduate has a choice to enter the masonry business for a producer, supplier, contractor, A/E firm or testing lab.

The CIM undergraduate program exists at four universities in different US regions to support the wide distribution of graduates. • Middle Tennesse State University • California State University – Chico • New Jersey Institute of Technology • Texas State University

The program has been successful for both the industry and the graduates. There are over 900 graduates with 80% of the alumni retained in the cement, concrete and masonry business in various capacities.

Focused Curriculum The CIM curriculum was developed using input from industry leaders. The program benefitted greately from members of National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) who provide educational trade publications and lab certification training for faculty and staff at their national laboratory. The curriculum includes general studies requirements, business and engineering classes, construction management course work, concrete industry-related courses and internships that provide practical experience and often result in a permanent position upon graduation.

Industry-specific courses cover three broad areas: materials; construction technology and techniques; applied project, production and sales/marketing management for the broader concrete industry. Graduates of this program have the skills necessary to meet the growing demands of the changing industry.

Special Experiences All CIM students are required to work 400 hours as an intern before graduation. Additionally, students perform both a short-term industry research project and a business analysis of a company during their senior year.

Applied-research projects might look at material performance, durability, installation issues, tolerances or construction techniques. A few examples are thin brick performance, block mix optimization and paver properties. Companies are encouraged to utilize the four CIM schools for cost-effective first looks at products and methods under consideration.

Exposure to Industry The program gives students many advantages, including entering the concrete workforce with exposure to the industry early in their career. With the support of ten trade organizations and a National Steering Committee concretedegree.com/about/program-support, students are exposed to plant tours, job sites, board rooms, seminars, conventions and even social gatherings.

Grassroots industry groups called CIM Patrons ensure the pro grams have scholarships to offer at each institution. More than 40 scholar – ships are available to pursue CIM and each school can offer in-state tuition to several states across the US for this unique degree program. More than $5 million has been distributed to the universities to assist in the establishment and development of the program.

On the national level, a major source of funding for the program is the annual CIM auction held at the World of Concrete. Over the past nine years, the auction has raised more than $4 million. Auction items varied from equipment and supplies, used by both producers and contractors in the concrete industry, to exciting vacation and sports packages, personal computers and TVs. Among items donated were a concrete truck and mixer, cement, admixtures, electronics, software, forms, tools, pumps, power screeds, generators and all-inclusive packages to the Kentucky Derby, Indianapolis 500, and the PGA’s Masters Tournament, to name a few. It is not an overstatement to say there is literally something for everyone.

Assistant Professor Dr Marcus Knight states, “Support of the masonry industry is essential in understanding building envelopes. Field trips and plant tours provide opportunities to ask real world questions. The students’ favorite activity is to build a small cavity wall themselves so they can appreciate the difficult job a mason has.” Knight remains current with industry goings-on by serving the TN Masonry Institute as a board member.

MBA for Global Concrete Executives The most recent exciting development is a first-of-its-kind Masters in Business Administration for the Concrete Industry which began its first class in October 2012. Middle Tennessee State University offers this unique MBA degree in executive format. This program is the result of many years of close collaboration between the University and the construction industry, whose leaders had expressed the need to further enhance the quality of their management staff by providing them with a highly focused and selective MBA degree that addressed current and future needs.

The Concrete Industry Management Department responded by creating a partnership with the MTSU Jennings A Jones College of Business to establish a global MBA specializing in the concrete industry. The Jennings A Jones College of Business, with one of the largest faculties in the US, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International.

The program is designed for industry professionals with business, liberal arts or technical degree possessing a minimum of three years experience in the industry and holding at least entry-level managerial or supervisory position in their respective organizations. To promote and foster intense professional and industry interaction between faculty and participants, class size is limited to 20 participants. concrete-mba.com

With major globalization themes, leader ship, strategy and execution, the program takes participants beyond basics to a true under – standing of forces that will shape the concrete and construction industries. Successful graduates should be able to immediately impact their businesses with a unique global, strategic and operational perspective and be ideally equipped to tackle the most pressing industry issues and help chart a future course of action.

Participants are shown skills need ed for leader – ship and team building as well as motivational skills to create synergy and to energize teams with the aim of achieving excellence throughout the organization.

The program is a unique learning opportunity with direct interaction from participants’ organizations to be certain that individual and corporate needs are being met.

Vision and Passion = Success In times where college debts are increasing and job placement is less than 60% by newly minted college graduates (NY Times May 2011), it’s the right move for industries to align with universities. This vision culminates with young people identifying a career path earlier and being retained due to passion and loyalty to an industry that gets cement in its veins.

Dr Heather Brown, is Department Chair and professor in the Concrete Industry Management Department. She joined Middle Tennesse State University in 2001 and was recognized in 2014 as Outstanding Teacher. Brown has developed nine new courses and has worked with sister CIM institutions to implement the curriculum through an NSF PFI grant since 2005. She travels extensively to stay current in the technology surrounding this $600 billion-a-year industry. She has amassed over 200 partners in support of the CIM program, and has received public and private grants to support undergraduate research efforts. Passionate about concrete, she attempts to bring the built environment into the classroom. Visitors would likely see scrolling visual aids with materials for tactile understanding. She encourages applied math to be loved by all students. Brown has also incorporated community engagement into her classes by performing concrete work on and off campus. Brown earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, Master of Science in Civil Engineering and PhD in Civil Engineering all from Tennessee Technological University. heather.brown@mtsu.edu | 615-904-8060

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