Those of us who have been around a while can’t help but notice that our industry has changed from days gone by. Where we rarely wore PPE, we now have extensive safety planning and training; where we might imbibe from time to time (let’s be honest), we now have drug policies and testing. We also do things like pre-task planning, keep daily logs, and other professional and responsible things that were a rarity back when. As the industry grows up, and technology improves, this evolution will continue.
With the advent of new technologies, there has been increasing discussion throughout the industry between manufacturers, architects, specifiers, owners, and contractors about the very real need for clear, uniform specifications and recognized certifications of training for workers that can also be specified. The reasons vary, depending on the goals of each sector. For instance, the manufacturer who has had unqualified workers install his product risks not only expensive failures on the job, but even more importantly, the loss of industry confidence in his product that not only affects sales, but, in time, could help lead to the near demise of that whole segment of the industry. Take, for example, what happened to EIFS in the plastering industry. The designer/architect who loses confidence in a product or process like polished concrete may turn to other, more traditional flooring methods, thereby taking away potential work from our members.
Whatever the perspective, the bottom line is the need for uniform training, the ability to track it, and a method of portability that the worker can take with him from job to job. Although we all know that a certification does not make you a craftsperson, it does assure the owner and the rest of the industry that you have obtained a certain knowledge level that will help prevent costly mistakes. It raises the bar off the ground. That is the direction the industry is starting to go, and it is the way we must go in order to command respect in the industry and improve our market share.
We are working at different levels to help make this happen, both internally and externally. Internally, the OPCMIA received a $628,000 grant from the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. With that money, we are in the process of developing training in the green technologies for both Cement Masons and Plasterers. We are also developing a credential-based testing and tracking system. This system will allow apprentices and journey-level members to house their training records in one easy to access, protected website. There will be an online test for each credential to verify each person’s knowledge, and once passed, that credential is placed in the person’s online file. That record may then be downloaded onto a card, laminated and carried with the worker. Having this portable, recognized record will not only help give the industry more confidence in our members, it could very well become one of our more marketable attributes.
Externally, we are reaching out to the rest of the industry to see how we can work together to achieve mutual goals. We hope to make inroads with the manufacturers, trade organizations and specifiers to develop recognized, national training standards and certifications. We feel that planting ourselves firmly in the center of the industry, being a major player in it, is our best hope toward expanding our sphere of influence, and capturing more quality work for our professional craftspeople.
Combined, these strategies will prepare our members for the future. If we all work together to be the best, our future will be prosperous.