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Developing a workforce for the future is a daunting task.
It’s a challenge that’s top-of-mind for aggregate producers and equipment manufacturers alike who’ve been searching for solutions for years. In Ohio, a special program aimed at overcoming workforce challenges is nearing reality.
MACC Tech – or Mining, Asphalt, Concrete & Construction (MACC) Technology, as it’s otherwise called – is a program designed to expose junior and senior high school students to a career technology path that ultimately leads to opportunities associated with the aggregate, asphalt, concrete and construction industries.
“This is an industry need and we’ve got a groundbreaking program,” says Pat Jacomet, the executive director of the Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association (OAIMA). “Not only for the aggregate industry but also for asphalt, concrete and the construction industries who all recognize the need to provide educational opportunities to expose people to the careers we have.”
The program aims to help fulfill the employment needs of the members of OAIMA and other organizations associated with construction.
According to Jacomet, the genesis of the program came from OAIMA members.
“[OAIMA members] are having difficulty finding younger people to fill the void left by retirements or someone moving to a different career,” Jacomet says. “This was created to fill the need expressed by our members here in Ohio specifically.”
Although workforce development challenges are prevalent around the country, several Ohio agencies and organizations are coming together to work toward a solution within the Buckeye State.
Since the program’s inception in 2018, OAIMA was joined by the Ohio Contractors Association, Flexible Pavements of Ohio, the Ohio Concrete Association, Skills USA Ohio, I Build America Ohio and Ohio University.
Butler Tech, a career technical school based in southwest Ohio with a presence throughout the state, is also a key partner and where MACC Tech will be housed.
The MACC Tech application was submitted to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) at the end of 2018. The application was still awaiting approval this spring, but OAIMA members will be ready when the time comes.
“Once we get this industry-recognized credential program [from ODE], we are ready to start this program at Butler Tech,” Jacomet says. “Everyone I’ve talked to wants to help this program. Our members are geared up and ready to go. We are really excited about the support, and that’s why it is a little frustrating waiting because we would like to move a little quicker. But we understand there is a process at ODE.”
MACC Tech is a two-year program designed to provide students with basic knowledge of aggregate production, asphalt and concrete production, and construction equipment and techniques. The curriculum will start with a heavy focus on safety, Jacomet says, and continue into more aggregate-specific topics such as mine planning, mine development, exploration and reclamation.
Aggregate industry professionals – the people who know these topics best – will be the educators.
“There are so many opportunities for members to participate and help teach,” Jacomet says. “It exposes these young students to the people in the industry. Creating opportunities for students to meet the people in our industry is what’s going to really make this program work. They are going to want to be a part of it, so we have maximized those points of contact for the students and our members.”
A number of OAIMA members want to be a part of the program, Jacomet adds.
“When a topic comes up that we have experts on in the industry, we are going to bring those people into the classroom and allow them to talk about the real world,” he says.
Networking is another key component of MACC Tech, which can sell the industry for employers in need of skilled people. Introducing students to industry professionals is a key to generate interest in crushed stone, sand and gravel job opportunities with up-and-comers.
“What I really love about the MACC Tech is it is by the industry,” says Laura Sage, the director of workforce services at Butler Tech. “We want the industry to help with education. It is what students need.”
The ultimate goal of the program is to arm students with the skills necessary to be immediately hired and have the knowledge to be productive on Day One.
“Our members are very excited and they want to help,” Jacomet says. “That is what really wraps this in a bow. When these young people graduate, they are hired by someone in our industry. That is what is going to keep this program moving.”
When a résumé exhibits MACC Tech, Jacomet says, it should move to the top of employer piles because of the exposure these students will get. Prior exposure to the aggregate industry is an attractive quality for producers looking to replenish their employee ranks.
“This program is going to give us a broader range of students with some exposure to the aggregate industry,” says Jackie Alf, executive vice president ofJohn R. Jurgensen Co. “I understand that someone graduating from this program is going to still need mentoring and attention, but the value of having someone understand what we actually do before they walk into our facility will really benefit the industry.”
Alf equates MACC Tech to a feeder school for the aggregate industry. The program will provide a consistent stream of qualified and interested employees who will supplement other hiring efforts.
Changing the perception
Additionally, the MACC Tech program will shed a new and largely unknown light onto the aggregate industry for the average person.
“Most people probably do not have a basis for forming a good perception of our industry because they are not exposed to it,” Jacomet says. “By offering this program to younger people, we can actually develop that perception of the industry. We can present factual information and real-world experience to help develop those perceptions.”
Alf echoes Jacomet’s sentiment.
“People don’t even have a perception because they don’t know about it,” she says. “This program has to do two things: introduce students to the industry and change the perceptions that come along with it.”
The most common perception associated with most trades can be summed up in what Sage calls the three Ds: dirty, dark and dingy.
“Students really think this is what it is really about,” she says. “We have to work to change that perception.”
The industry also must do a better job telling its story. To Sage, producers must tell their stories to their communities through the mediums most popular among local youth. Engaging the community on social media, for example, can help producers reach younger audiences on a familiar platform long before they decide on a career.
“[The aggregate industry] is generational,” Sage says. “So many people in this industry are in it because their father or mother was. This kind of knowledge is passed down from one generation to the next.”
This generational history and a family atmosphere are key to changing perceptions.
“When you meet people in our industry, you’ll want to be a part of that family,” Jacomet says. “We have created many opportunities to connect with our members. I think that is what is going to move this program forward.”
The future of MACC Tech
Pat Jacomet, the executive director at the Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association (OAIMA), is looking forward to getting the Mining, Asphalt, Concrete & Construction (MACC) Tech program up and running.
“We think once we get this going it is really going to take off,” he says.
The program is still awaiting approval from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), but the feedback Jacomet gets from ODE is very positive. The submittal package to ODE included nearly 80 letters of support from OAIMA members; associated companies and associations; the Ohio Department of Transportation; the Ohio Senate; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; I Build America Ohio; the University of Kentucky; West Virginia University; Cincinnati State Technical & Community College; and the University of Cincinnati.
Once the program gains proper approvals, Jacomet expects the first year to be a learning experience.
“We want to have a full class in Year One,” Jacomet says. “In Year Two, we hope to continue the program at Butler Tech and then spread it to other areas of Ohio. We think once we get this going it is really going to take off.”
Beyond the first year, Jacomet anticipates adding an adult and veteran segment to the program. Because the program will be housed at career tech schools across the state of Ohio, it would be an easy transition to include adult education and veteran training, Jacomet says.