the answer is...no!With a National Labor Shortfall projected to be Two-Three Million Workers by 2025, the Precast industry is Implementing Initiatives to Train and Grow Their Own Talent
According to Marti Harrel, NPCA Vice President of Technical Services & Professional Development, ‘there are no precast-specific design programs currently available for students, as most colleges do not have any classes, let alone majors, dedicated to precast. At best, most students get a single lecture or two about precast materials or design. Most designers come out of the civil engineering programs. A large part of our efforts at the NPCA are dedicated to connecting with professors to get more precast-specific curriculum into classrooms.’
The PCI Foundation has studio programs in select colleges across the country focusing on precast concrete, with one university program offering certification. The PCI Foundation, along with the support of the local precast producer functioning as the industry champion, create a partnership with the universities to develop new precast concrete curriculum.
The curriculum at the University of Minnesota/Duluth offers certification in resiliency and precast concrete design. Professor Benjamin Dymond of the Civil Engineering Department will coordinate the program in conjunction with their Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. Molin Concrete Products has supplied a scaled precast structure panel in the teaching lab and will conduct plant and job site tours.
Plant and site tours are also planned for the University of Arizona’s program by its industry champion Coreslab Structures. The new PCI Studio at the university will create new precast concrete content integrated within and across the university’s civil engineering, architecture and architectural engineering degree programs. This effort is led by Professor Dr. Robert D. Fleishman in conjunction with the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Design.
These educational initiatives…started, supported and even funded by the industry, will assist employers with the college-to-employment skills gap and provide the precast industry with a pipeline of well-trained engineers who are ready to perform their first day on the job.
PERSPECTIVES FROM RECENT GRADUATES…
Hopefully, this feature has highlighted the need for our structural and civil engineering colleges to provide its students with more specific curriculum for precast design and how the industry is getting involved to facilitate change, but are the changes really needed? Who better to ask this question than recent graduates now employed in the precast industry?
Delta Precast employs two recent civil engineering graduates (Mackenzie Ryan and Chenoa Hailey). They were asked, ‘Thinking about your college curriculum versus your actual job experience at Delta Precast, do you think there is a disconnect or something missing that wasn’t taught and is needed when working on real live projects? Both Mackenzie and Chenoa were not hesitant to answer a resounding ‘YES’, there is a disconnect from what is being taught to the skillset actually needed for live projects and noted—’they’re learning a lot at Delta Precast!’
Chenoa graduated in May 2019 with a BS in civil engineering from Syracuse University. At Delta Precast, she is an engineer involved in all types of projects, working on the design, calculations, compiling drawings for submission to clients and says the position so far has required expertise in design standards, structural design and learning new software. She highly recommends future curriculum to include exposure to multiple software applications used within the industry, as well as a wider approach to design, including steel and different precast processes.
Mackenzie is an Assistant Engineer, a 2018 graduate with a BS in civil engineering from SUNY Polytechnic Institute. As a former summer intern with Delta Precast, she’s been able to leverage this experience and immediately contribute, assisting with projects such as foundational design, modular structures, compile and package shop drawings. She’s also involved in sports facility projects, designing tension netting systems, including calculations to determine cable lengths, heights, diameters, loads, and wind tolerances. Mackenzie recommends classes to highlight concrete design, structural analysis and would encourage education beyond a four-year degree.
A conclusion or take-away for every precast producer or design engineering firm is to be proactive when it comes to hiring and have HR initiatives in place. Finding skilled labor will get more difficult with each passing year and it will require businesses to develop workforce plans such has been outlined above, possibly partnering with your local college to modify the engineering curriculum, becoming a champion with both time and monetary investment and maybe even starting your efforts sooner at the high school level, getting students focused on a career path which leads to your open doors.