Chairman's Message: Masonry Meetings that Matter: Midyear 2021
By Paul Oldham
I am going to circle back to the Midyear meeting held in Memphis in September. Many great discussions were held during our sessions, but two really stood out to me. One was the meeting with NCCER, for those who do not know, NCCER stands for the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
For many years now, MCAA has worked with NCCER to help improve and promote training and education in the masonry industry. It wasn't that long ago that NCCER updated the masonry books with a small group of industry subject matter experts. There are a lot of businesses, high schools, colleges, and associations that utilize these books to train their workforce. Many have observed what still holds back students from having an interest in our industry and that is that when you participate in the NCCER training at the end of each module there is a written.
Our friends in North Carolina are working to change this portion of the training to become a performance-based test, which would transform the educational system’s current testing process and also that of NCCER. NCCER is considering re-working their training books to adapt the testing to be hands-on. We are supportive of this transition and believe it will help immensely in the recruitment efforts of young people into our industry.
Some asked how do you assess someone's knowledge without a written test? Many still don't realize that many young people are very visual and hands-on-oriented people, who are very good at a skill if only given a chance to show it. I tell people all the time I'm one of those people. I struggled throughout school and was fortunate enough to figure out how to get through being an upper “C” student. I struggled through the first two years in college, even getting kicked out of engineering school because of my grades. After spending time in summer school and squeaking out just enough to get back in, I entered the classes that dealt with hands-on results.
The classes that allowed you to show your knowledge with hands-on demonstrations, and counted those demonstrations more than the summative tests, which I still struggled with, I excelled at. At the end of the day, I graduated and graduated on the dean's list to finish up. I still wake up from dreams that I dropped too many classes and wasn't receiving my degree the morning of graduation. If you allow a young adult or student to show skill, then that person can take the bull by the horns and run, if allowed. People come in all shapes, sizes, work ethics, and skills, and at the end of the day, a narrow approach to testing isn't always the best answer.
So back to the meeting with NCCER. Ryan Shaver from North Carolina led the discussion and presented his ideas of tweaking the process to the group and NCCER. His ideas included less emphasis on traditional question and answer tests, but focusing more on how the individual can perform. That is what the industry is looking for, skilled and motivated tradespeople. NCCER was very open to the ideas but mindful of how big of an idea this is.
It is a movement in this country, and at the end of the meeting, NCCER shared that we aren't the only industry talking about this approach. It will take a lot of industry support and a lot of work with the education system in our country to make changes like this. It was an excellent meeting, and our industry would like to thank our partners at NCCER and our North Carolina members for their leadership on workforce development.
On the first day of the Midyear meeting, I was asked about the association's stance on vaccine mandates. My answer on day one was we hope to find out where our membership stands on this subject this week. During our roundtable meeting, I opened this discussion up to the membership to vet through. The room vetted the issue. Once it opened up, it consumed the rest of our time for the session. I apologized to a few members afterward because we didn't discuss as many subjects as usual, but this was well worth everyone's time. Attendees shared many views, legal thoughts, and personal stories.
I want to thank all those that participated and opened up about the subject. I believe our members got to hear and understand viewpoints from every direction, and it was clear that we had many members on all sides of the subject. In the end, I believe that all in attendance saw some different sides to the debate that they had not yet seen or thought. Everyone saw agreement on parts, and some disagreed on details but left shaking hands and acknowledging each other's views. That day was another way we showed what a great industry we have.
About the Author
Paul Oldham is the MCAA Legislative Committee Chairperson.