By Kirk Stelsel, CAE
Lindsay Precast and the National Precast Concrete Association Foundation are teaming up to educate the next generation.
When Mike Hoffman, vice president of corporate development for Lindsay Precast, thinks about the future of the precast concrete industry, he tends to focus on students. In particular, he sees students majoring in engineering, architecture or construction-related programs as both future decision-makers who will impact the industry and potential employees.
This view puts Hoffman and Lindsay Precast in line with the National Precast Concrete Association Foundation’s mission. A recent collaboration between Lindsay Precast and NPCA enabled Hoffman to develop a relationship with a college near Lindsay’s Canal Fulton, Ohio, plant.
Hoffman was already trying to cultivate a relationship with Stark State College’s engineering department when Marti Harrell, executive director of the foundation, reached out to offer free tickets to The Precast Show 2017 for students around the Cleveland area. Hoffman jumped at the chance to offer tickets to Geoff Wopershall, P.E., an associate professor at Stark State.
“I’m passionate about introducing the precast industry to up-and-coming specifiers,” Hoffman said. “I initially thought I’d get Geoff involved with The Precast Show, but he took it a step further by bringing his students.”
Stark State offers ABET-accredited associate degrees in civil engineering technology and pre-engineering. Following graduation in two years, students can either enter the workforce or continue studying for a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The faculty at Stark State focuses on practical, real-world applications to prepare students and relies heavily on industry feedback. As a result, the opportunity to attend The Precast Show was an excellent fit.
“When Mike Hoffman called me about The Precast Show coming to Cleveland, I knew it was a perfect opportunity to show my students what the precast industry is all about,” Wopershall said. “Through the generosity of NPCA Foundation, my students were able to attend a national event and see the wide variety of products found in the precast industry. To be honest, my students were wide-eyed when they saw the trade show floor.
“They couldn’t believe all of the industries affected by precast concrete. The ability for my students to talk directly to industry professionals really excited them.“
After the successful visit to The Precast Show, Hoffman and Wopershall worked on how to further the relationship for the benefit of the students. Wopershall visited Lindsay’s Canal Fulton facility and plans to bring students soon. In addition, representatives from Lindsay will be guest speakers to supplement the precast concrete curriculum.
“The benefits are invaluable for everyone involved,” Wopershall said. “As a college, we obtain closer ties to a local employer and we can tweak our curriculum to help meet the needs of the industry. Lindsay Precast gets to share its story with the next generation of technicians and engineers in the field and our students gain a greater appreciation for the precast industry while making their education more tangible.”
Wopershall said he and his students are already looking forward to future collaborations and that students are discussing applying for 2018 NPCA Foundation scholarships. Hoffman also couldn’t be more pleased with the results and encourages other precasters to get involved with local schools. While this relationship is a great example of success, it’s only a portion of Lindsay’s ongoing outreach with area schools.
The company has supported local schools entering in the American Society of Civil Engineering’s National Concrete Canoe Competition for many years through donations of products like fiber reinforcement. It plans to develop deeper relationships with other area schools as well, including Akron University and Kent State. Hoffman also sees connecting with students pursuing other engineering degrees down the road, such as electrical engineering. He envisions sharing Lindsay’s work with solar skids – even if it’s just to show such students that precast concrete exists and that it’s an example of what they could expect to work on in their careers.
“Over time, these relationships will add up to a major impact on the industry and it takes nothing out of your day to do this,” Hoffman said. “Start with the professor, be persistent if you have to, and invite them to come see your plant. Ultimately, a plant tour with the students is the best and the relationship can grow from there.”
Kirk Stelsel, CAE, is NPCA’s director of communication and marketing.