This article was originally shared in The Cornerstone, Spring/Summer 2016 edition. HardHatCollage-wLogos
In order to transform an industry and make significant, lasting changes, leaders have to come together and agree upon the greater mission. Fortunately, NCCER’s founders understood the necessity for this type of collaboration and were able to put the needs of the industry above those of their individual organizations. Indeed, the collaborative spirit of NCCER’s partners has given true credence to the famous saying, “ The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” BUILT BY INDUSTRY NCCER’s origins can be traced back to 1991 when it was part of Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) Construction Education Foundation. During this time, 11 of the nation’s leading contractors came together to address the emerging shortage of skilled workers. Together, these organizations donated subject matter experts and funding to begin the process of standardizing competency-based training curricula for the industry. Several of these contractors also donated their in-house craft training curricula. This joint effort led to the creation of NCCER as an independent entity dedicated to developing and managing craft training and credentialing for the industry. With many of the country’s leading contractors and ABC onboard, NCCER was off to a good start. However, NCCER leaders believed it was also essential to bring the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) into the fold as an association partner. “The hope was that NCCER could become the training and education source for the construction industry,” said Bill Pinto, a former NCCER chairman and board member for ABC National. “The two major construction associations in the U.S. were ABC and AGC. So for NCCER to be the leading industry education and training resource speaking with one voice, it also needed the support of AGC.” AGC was initially hesitant to join NCCER, but after it became clear that NCCER would be an independent organization and not an extension of ABC, AGC partnered and donated its training curriculum. With AGC onboard, NCCER combined the best elements of all the individual training programs into one system. With both ABC and AGC working together, NCCER was firmly established as an industry representative of workforce development. Peter Wert, a former NCCER chairman and president of AGC, was a driving force in getting AGC to join NCCER. “The unity within the industry, in terms of the associations and the leading individuals that gave rise to NCCER, was unique in my personal experience,” said Wert. “A natural competitiveness existed between AGC and ABC, but as we created NCCER’s board of trustees, I found that competition—at least among trustees—disappeared. The board was intensely focused on building NCCER and creating a new training order for the U.S. construction industry. The success of NCCER over the past 20 years is a testament to the vision and goodwill of all those who gave so much to make it a reality.” The time, money and materials the founding partners invested in NCCER have paid huge dividends not only for the industry, but for each of the individual organizations involved as well. As an independent organization supported by industry, NCCER is able to bring a level of quality and integrity to its training and certification that is far superior to anything that existed previously. “NCCER added a level of credibility to craft training that had not been there before,” said Bob Piper, former vice president of workforce development at ABC National. “NCCER was able to get other associations on board to develop the best curricula on the market. Our workforce is now using curricula that are nationally recognized, not only by ABC, but industry-wide.” The major contractor associations are not the only ones that benefit from their relationship with NCCER. Specialty contractor associations that work with NCCER reap similar rewards. For example, NCCER and longtime partner American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) worked together to develop an industry-leading curriculum for sprinkler fitting. “We do better when we work together to leverage the experience and resources of each organization involved,” said Steve Muncy, president of AFSA. “Working with NCCER helps our association expand its scope and reach, which would be difficult for any one association to achieve on its own.” Another longtime partner of NCCER’s is the North American Crane Bureau (NACB). Together, the two organizations jointly develop curricula for crane operators and other related crafts. NACB president Ted Blanton Sr. said that working with NCCER saved his organization vast sums of time and money, and he recommends others in the industry take the same route. “NACB is primarily focused on training crane operators, riggers, signal persons and other equipment operators,” said Blanton. “NCCER provides excellent curricula for these programs as well as many other crafts. The price of developing these materials is extremely high, so rather than taking on the monumental task of developing a training program in-house, organizations can work with NCCER and take advantage of the resources it has already created.” WFD_Committee_03302016A UNIFIED TEAM To ensure that NCCER best serves the industry, it is guided by multiple committees made up of stakeholders from all the markets that it serves. NCCER’s governing body is its board of trustees, which consists of representatives from contributing contractors, owners, education and partner associations. “NCCER has been blessed by having such high level industry leaders on our board of trustees to guide us throughout the years,” said Don Whyte, president of NCCER. “Their expertise and commitment has helped us elevate workforce development efforts in our industry.” The board of trustees works closely with NCCER’s two major industry committees: the Workforce Development Committee and the Safety Committee. These committees report directly to the board, offering recommendations for discussion and approval. The committees also work closely with one another to ensure that the policies and procedures they recommend within their own committee support and complement those in the other. The Workforce Development Committee advises the board on issues related to craft training, education and other workforce development topics. The committee reviews and discusses areas of concern or need related to these issues to ensure that every craft professional using NCCER has an equal opportunity to become trained and credentialed. Committee members are a balanced mix of representatives from associations, contractors, manufacturers, education and the pipeline industry. Michael Stilley, director of training and development with S&B Engineers and Constructors, Ltd., is a former chair of NCCER’s Workforce Development Committee. He believes that having such a diverse array of groups working closely together toward a common goal has been a critical component of NCCER’s success. “The committee allows us to form a collaborative commitment to improving our industry and future craft professionals,” said Stilley. “Working together, we’re able to see a much bigger picture of what is needed in workforce development. This has enabled us to become better informed about workforce development and focus on what is most needed to better educate those in and associated with our industry.” Under the Workforce Development Committee, the Pipeline Users Council provides advice on ways to improve NCCER’s pipeline-related curricula, certifications, products, programs and procedures, along with recommending new pipeline-related products and programs. The majority of members are comprised of pipeline owners and contractors, with a limited number of members representing business partners and third-party providers. Lisa Hartnup, compliance manager with Praxair Services, Inc., is the current chair of the Pipeline Users Council. She believes that having representatives from each of the different groups in the pipeline market serving on the council allows everyone to see each other’s needs and viewpoints, which ultimately strengthens the training programs. Moreover, the council provides these companies with a voice, so that they can offer input on the industry’s direction. NCCER’s Safety Committee advises the board on all issues related to craft safety training and education. The Safety Committee works closely with the Workforce Development Committee to ensure that safety training is an integral part of all NCCER curricula. Its members also serve as subject matter experts in overseeing the development and maintenance of NCCER safety programs, while providing advice and direction on occupational health and safety concerns. Paul Judd is a former senior safety manager with TIC – The Industrial Company and a former chair of NCCER’s Safety Committee, and like Stilley, he said that collaboration among committee members is one of the main reasons NCCER safety training has been so effective. “Serving on the Safety Committee gave me the opportunity to work with safety professionals from other organizations who have differing backgrounds and experiences as well as different safety concerns and needs,” said Judd. “Working together, this diverse team of construction safety professionals has really improved and advanced NCCER’s safety training curricula. Craft professionals who have been taught the fundamental safety skills they need to succeed have greatly strengthened our industry.” Another important group that assists with NCCER’s product development and revision are subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs are construction and maintenance professionals from across the country who have journey-level experience and many have taught their crafts to others. SMEs ensure that all NCCER products remain current with industry standards and technology. < Ed LePage, former mechanical craft training coordinator for Cianbro Corporation, started as an SME for NCCER in 2003. As an SME, he has contributed to the development of numerous NCCER curricula, including Pipefitter, Millwright, Industrial Maintenance Mechanic, Boilermaking and Instrumentation. At Cianbro, LePage was involved with training pipefitters and millwrights in-house. He feels that NCCER’s programs are modern and sophisticated, which is in large part because SMEs like himself are able to regularly update the products. “The industry is always developing new methods to accomplish work,” said LePage. “By having SMEs involved in developing training curricula, trainees are exposed to the newest methods, processes and technology.” NCCER’S EXPANDING REACH As NCCER evolved to become the training standard for the U.S. construction industry, it expanded its reach into other areas such as education, government and the pipeline and maritime industries. Before NCCER, many of these markets lacked industry-recognized craft training and credentials. This made it extremely difficult for students to make the transition into the workforce after graduation, so NCCER partnered with education to create a clearly defined pathway for students to enter the construction and maintenance industries with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills. NCCER’s expansion into education has proved successful with 65 percent of the use of NCCER’s training programs now being delivered in secondary and postsecondary schools. In fact, there are 10 state departments of education and eight state community and technical college systems that are NCCER Accredited Training Sponsors, and 44 states deliver NCCER training in schools through Accredited Training and Education Facilities. In addition to providing standardized craft training and credentialing for students, NCCER’s relationship with education has helped develop articulation agreements between high schools and colleges to promote a seamless transition for students to transfer from one institution to another and eventually into the workforce. An example of where NCCER’s success in education has proven exemplary is in North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) oversees the state’s entire public school system, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. In 2010, NCDPI became an NCCER Accredited Training Sponsor to facilitate the implementation of career and technical education (CTE) programs in the state’s high schools. NCDPI also partners with the North Carolina Community College System, which provides transfer credits for certain high school classes and allows high school students to take community college courses for free. Craig Pendergraft, education consultant with NCDPI’s CTE division, said that because high school students are being taught by NCCER-certified instructors who are using the same NCCER curriculum taught by colleges and industry, they are able to transition much more easily and quickly into the postsecondary arena or an entry-level job. “Alignment between secondary and postsecondary education allows students to progress through the craft curriculum more quickly, and it reduces unnecessary duplication of course content,” said Pendergraft. “The collaboration, partnerships and communication NCCER’s programs have fostered between community colleges and high schools has greatly improved the knowledge and awareness students and parents have regarding construction career pathways.” In addition to the secondary and postsecondary education markets, NCCER also works with training and education programs through the federal government, such as Job Corps and YouthBuild. Both of these programs are funded through the Department of Labor and provide young people from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds with valuable training and credentials to get entry-level jobs or continue their education. David Burch, global director of construction and vocational training with YouthBuild International, said that NCCER craft training provides his organization with a very organized and structured way to teach students, which allows them to go through the curriculum and learn new skills in a step-by-step manner. He also said that NCCER programs help young people get excited about construction careers. “Many times, young people don’t think much about construction careers and have a negative impression about getting their hands dirty,” said Burch. “But NCCER craft training really helps change their mindset and see things differently in terms of going into the industry. It’s absolutely key to have training that gets kids interested and motivated about the industry, and that’s a big part of what NCCER does.” Another government-related market NCCER works with is corrections. There are 18 state departments of corrections that deliver NCCER craft training to prison inmates. These training programs provide inmates with valuable skills they can use to obtain jobs and reintegrate into society once released. This offers the construction industry a pipeline of skilled workers while also providing the corrections system a source of skilled labor to maintain the prisons and reduce maintenance costs while the inmates are incarcerated. One state where NCCER craft training in corrections has seen great success is Louisiana. The Louisiana Department of Corrections first worked with NCCER in 2009 when the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola became an NCCER Accredited Training Unit under the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS). John Easley, CTE program certification director of re-entry education at Louisiana State Penitentiary, established the correctional facility as an Accredited Training Unit while working as an NCCER sponsor representative with LCTCS. He said the NCCER programs at the Angola prison have been highly successful for both inmates and the prison. The overall recidivism rate for inmates completing NCCER craft training is less than 10 percent, and the penitentiary’s NCCER program recently won the American Correctional Association’s innovation award. These results have led to an expansion of NCCER training into additional Louisiana correctional facilities. “The Angola training model has garnered attention in numerous states,” said Easley. “The NCCER training programs are very successful because we have quality inmate instructors; collaboration between security and education; and strong support from the state’s corrections administration.” Beyond education and government, NCCER also works with diverse industry markets like pipeline and maritime. While these markets are outside of the traditional construction sector, professionals in these fields require skills that are very similar to those in construction, so NCCER is the perfect fit. According to Deb Haifleigh, who worked with NCCER when she was the Department of Transportation compliance manager for Koch Pipeline Company, leaders in the pipeline market initially considered several other organizations to develop training. NCCER was selected because it was able to develop training programs that could be used by multiple pipeline companies, and it already had a large network of accredited facilities to administer training and assessments. “NCCER understood the pipeline industry’s vision, and they worked together with us to develop the qualification and training materials,” said Haifleigh. “These materials are very valuable to the industry and would not have been developed without NCCER’s help.” The maritime industry is one of NCCER’s newest markets. Following Hurricane Katrina, the maritime industry launched the Gulf States Shipbuilders Consortium (GSSC) to address the critical shortage of skilled workers in the area. At the time, no organization offered standardized training for maritime structural fitters, also known as shipfitters. This led GSSC to use SMEs from the region’s shipyards to develop and test a curriculum with a series of bootcamps in Alabama and Mississippi. The bootcamps proved very successful, with 100 percent of their trainees being hired by shipyards after graduation. Following the bootcamps, GSSC looked to develop credentialing for the program, but as a small, nonprofit organization, establishing and maintaining national credentials proved beyond their capabilities—and that is when they reached out to NCCER. In 2012, the two organizations developed a jointly endorsed curriculum, and GSSC formed the National Maritime Education Council to provide funding for the development of curricula. Within the past few years, the partnership has produced the following curricula: Maritime Industry Fundamentals, Maritime Structural Fitter Levels 1-3and Maritime Pipefitting Levels 1-2. According to GSSC president Byron Dunn, NCCER proved invaluable in taking the training materials and processes they had developed to the next level. Dunn said that NCCER’s national credibility and infrastructure saved GSSC vast sums of time and money, and other markets looking to create training and credentialing programs should work with NCCER. “Instead of doing everything from scratch like we did with the bootcamps, by partnering with NCCER, we already had a system in place for delivering this training and providing credentialing,” said Dunn. “This is a model that should be replicated everywhere.” THE FUTURE NCCER’s model of unifying the industry around craft training has gone far beyond anyone’s initial expectations. NCCER has expanded its reach beyond construction and into education, government and the pipeline and maritime industries to ensure that every individual and organization connected to construction has access to the same world-class training, credentialing and workforce development resources. While NCCER may be a single, independent organization, its success is the direct result of a revolutionary spirit of cooperation among all of the different groups that came together to create, fund and support the organization. Each and every one of NCCER’s stakeholders has made invaluable contributions to the organization, and in turn, has benefited immensely from the fruits of this collaboration. “Today, NCCER is widely recognized as a workforce development leader in our industry, which is exactly what its founders envisioned—one industry, one training program,” said Ron Fedrick, CEO of Nova Group and the first chairman of NCCER’s board of trustees. “But we have also greatly exceeded the expectations of those who founded the organization. Every major contractor and every major association I know is affected by NCCER. I am personally very proud to have been associated with the creation of NCCER—and even more proud of where its team of supporters has taken it today.”

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NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.