The CIM Program is shaping tomorrow’s concrete industry leaders
By Kirk Stelsel
“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
– Coach Vince Lombardi
Coach Lombardi’s famous words apply as much to the business world as they do to the football field. There are no shortcuts to becoming a respected business leader. It takes hard work and dedication, the exact qualities a group of individuals from the concrete industry were looking to instill in young men and women when they developed the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program in 1995.
The founders recognized a growing demand for young professionals with enhanced technical, communication and management skills specifically suited for the concrete industry. Together with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), they put together a four-year degree program that launched in 1996 with two enrollees. “MTSU has been a tremendous partner for the industry and for the CIM program as a whole and is our flagship program,” said Brian Gallagher, chairman of the CIM Marketing Committee. “They are really visionaries in terms of embracing the program.”
The program has since grown by leaps and bounds, both in breadth and scope. Today, it enrolls more than 500 students at six schools across the country, including MTSU, Arizona State University, California State University – Chico, Texas State University – San Marco, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. In the 15 years that have passed since the first
two students enrolled, more than 550 have graduated with
The goal of the CIM program is to develop broadly educated graduates grounded in basic business management. To achieve this, students study four areas including general studies, required support courses, major requirements of concrete-related courses and business courses. The wide array of subjects they study range from finance, sales, marketing and business law to math, management and science. Upon graduation, students earn a Bachelor of Science degree as well as a minor in business administration.
The concrete-specific curriculum teaches the fundamentals of concrete, operations, properties and testing, and concrete construction. Through these courses, students learn materials science such as mix design, testing and quality control; concrete construction technology and techniques; and applied management skills such as operations management, product/industry promotion, marketing, sales and estimating.
“Part of the beauty of the program is the industry is involved in helping shape the curriculum, and what experience, knowledge and skill sets they need in their future employees and leaders,” Gallagher said. “This helps better prepare CIM students for success in the industry and on the flip side, it’s helping develop students who meet the industry’s needs.”
In addition to the classroom work, students make frequent visits to construction sites and plants and do hands-on learning with experienced teachers to solidify the principals they learn in the classroom and in the field. Students must also complete one internship to ensure they obtain real-world experience.
Chase Estes, a recent graduate of the CIM program, found it to be a great fit after two years at a community college left him wondering which path to take. On the recommendation of a friend’s brother, who raved about the program, Estes enrolled at MTSU. There, he finally found a career path that perfectly suited his interests.
In the spring of 2009, Estes contacted Columbia Precast and inquired about a summer internship. He spent the summer building forms, finishing concrete, putting in lifters, handling reinforcement and reading blueprints. The internship gave him a strong base in the precast concrete business, and solidified what he had been learning. “Seeing the things I learned about in class being used really helped me in understanding how they worked,” he said. “I could already name all the tools, and I knew about the different mixtures that would be applied.” Estes was eventually hired by NPCA member C.R. Barger and Sons to work at its plant in Kingston, Tenn.
NPCA member U.S. Concrete Precast Group – San Diego also hired a CIM student intern in 2009. “While he had a well-rounded background in different areas, we felt the best fit was in our Quality Assurance department,” said Todd Ebbert, general manager. “He excelled in filling the technician and laboratory duties for the department and was respected for the knowledge and skills he brought from his CIM education.”
A sturdy base
The CIM program benefits from a strong support structure that provides a wide range of advisors at both the local and national level. Faculty can lean on individuals from the entire industry for support.
Most important to the program is the support of the concrete industry. Two elements comprise the support structure. One is the National Steering Committee (NSC) and its various subcommittees. The other, the Board of Directors, is comprised of national-level sponsoring organizations such as NPCA, as well as executives from some of the industry’s leading companies. The role of the NSC is to provide financial support to the program universities, as well as oversight on the curriculum and guidance for general program direction from a national perspective.
“As the CIM program continues to grow, it is imperative that the NSC continue to provide a vision for the CIM program and maintain the integrity and quality of the curriculum,” said Mike Schneider, chairman of the CIM National Steering Committee. “This is being done through the continuing efforts of our Education and Long Range Planning committees.”
In addition, each school has a local patrons’ group that spends its time and financial resources to build a structure around the local program. “The success of CIM would not be possible without the strong partnership that exists between the NSC and the patrons’ groups,” said Eugene Martineau, NSC executive director. “The collective patrons’ groups not only match the financial commitment of the NSC to the individual school, but provide many in-kind services. The local patrons are engaged in assisting the program directors with student needs, local scholarships, facilities improvements and guest lecturing.”
The NSC, Board and patrons’ groups ensure the CIM program remains strong and continues to evolve. “It’s interesting because we’ve got international, multibillion dollar companies involved, and we’ve also got single-location companies with revenues under a million dollars, as well as the trade associations,” Gallagher said. “So we’ve got a full gamut of folks who are involved and invested in the program.”
Mastering the industry
The CIM program has grown significantly in the past 15 years, but expansion of the program to new campuses is only part of the goal. Recently, plans for a unique executive Masters of Business Administration at MTSU were rolled out for professionals with five or more years of experience looking to further their education. The curriculum will remain focused on the concrete and construction industry and expand the industry-academic partnership that has already been developed.
“We’re bringing a lot of focus to strengthening our current programs and fully developing them for future growth, and the MBA program is going to be a big emphasis for the CIM program going forward,” Gallagher said. “There definitely is a demand for this, and we’re trying to do something different than the typical MBA program and do something really unique for the industry.”
The18-month program will kick off in August 2012 with 25 initial enrollees. The program, which will cost $39,000, will be administered in 10-week blocks and include distance learning, webinars and on-campus visits to MTSU. According to Heather Brown, Ph.D., director and associate professor of the CIM program at MTSU, “It is our intention to make this a top-notch program that serves the entire country with a concrete and construction-infused MBA.”
With the addition of the MBA program at MTSU and the NSC evaluating inquiries from academic institutions across the country, the future of the CIM program looks bright. In the meantime, all of the individuals, companies and trade associations involved with the program are succeeding at providing students like Estes with a strong education and the industry with future leaders. Estes, for one, would not hesitate to advocate the program to others. “The CIM staff is amazing and really cares about the students and program,” Estes said. “Anyone who is thinking about the CIM program for a degree, I suggest you do it. You will learn a lot about a field that will be around forever.”
Kirk Stelsel is NPCA’s communication manager.