By Sara Geer
Whether you grew up in the precast concrete industry or started later in life, taking education courses can only enhance your success. Camp Precast Concrete Products in Milton, Vt., has put three employees through National Precast Concrete Association’s Production and Quality School and plans to start two more this year. Travis Brousseau and Ethan Camp, who both graduated as Master Precasters in 2016, came to the program with different goals, but their perspective on how the educational opportunity has benefitted the company and industry is similar.
Investing in what matters
Brousseau, co-owner and general manager, passionately believes that a successful business is nothing without its employees. As the company was in the middle of building its new plant, employee input meant a lot to him and co-owner Kevin Camp.
“We talked with them about what they needed, asked a lot of questions during the planning phases and basically asked, ‘What works and what doesn’t?’” he said. “It was important to us to keep everyone involved and updated on each step of the project.”
Their approach to educating their employees is similar, but they felt one of them needed to see firsthand the benefits of Precast University courses before investing more in them. Brousseau said he was the lucky one to attend first and afterwards he had only positive things to say about his experience.
“I thought it was great since I didn’t have the background or grow up in the industry,” he said. “There was a lot of stuff I realized I took for granted or didn’t know, and I have an engineering degree.”
Brousseau said much of what he learned while taking the Production and Quality School Level II–Production course still resonates.
“I always look at it as my job to surround myself with people that are smarter than me in the areas that I put them in, but that I need to know a little bit about everything,” he said. “So, a lot of the classes I took helped me to learn about things I don’t do every day – quality control, batching and production. These classes helped me become a more rounded manager and leader.”
Brousseau added that graduating as a Master Precaster helped him recognize just how important industry-specific training is for the company. Not only will employees who are interested in making precast concrete a career be appreciative of the company’s commitment, but they are also receiving knowledge and training essential to success in their current jobs. Brousseau and Camp plan to start putting two or three workers through the program at a time.
“One thing that I noticed about Ethan (Camp) after he attended classes is he answered more questions at the weekly QC/QA meetings,” Brousseau said. “He has more confidence. When I see employees do that, it’s fantastic.”
Create your own path
To join or not to join, that is the question family members face with when considering the family business. Ethan Camp never thought about working with his father, Kevin, until high school. He worked summers at Camp Precast for nearly four years before starting full time after college. He is a quality control technician and a production crew member.
“I’ve enjoyed working for the family business thus far, and it has lasted beyond anything else I really wanted to do,” he said.
Through his father’s NPCA and industry connections, Ethan had already been networking with and learning from many precasters about the industry. However, not until taking NPCA’s PQS Level I course did he have the motivation to take the next step in his career.
“PQS I was the class that was truly eye-opening for me about things that related directly to my job specifically and the industry,” he said. “Even after working all those summers, it showed me that there was a lot more in precast than doing the daily work.”
Now, after graduating as a Master Precaster, he’s able to better understand the technical concepts shared by those precasters he networks with. In addition, he has become a mentor to employees at Camp Precast by connecting his work ethic with the course knowledge to not only tell, but show co-workers how to perform daily operations in the plant.
“It’s definitely been beneficial for our employees because they understand better what I’m talking about, how we do things and it’s better for the company,” he said.
Ethan said he’s noticed, for example, that ensuring employees know how to vibrate a product correctly makes a difference in improving efficiency. If everyone is thinking similarly, communication and quality does not have to suffer, he said.
He continues to take courses every year to increase his knowledge and still regularly uses his notes from previous courses for problem solving and review.
“The best part about working in the precast industry is there are always new things coming out to learn – standards, processes, etc.,” he said. “It all inspires me to maintain my education and keep going with everything I know so far.”