Master Precaster program celebrates another record class

As general manager at M-1 Tanks, Joshua Wahl wears a lot of hats.

It’s a small company with only 12 employees. So, whether it’s quality control, safety or finding buoyancy calculations, Wahl has a hat to do the job.

In February at The Precast Show, Wahl added another hat to his collection.

He was one of a record 76 Master Precaster graduates to be honored during the Keynote Luncheon on the opening day of the Show. In addition to a certificate, the newly anointed Master Precasters receive a highly coveted gold hard hat. It’s a memento Wahl is excited to have in his office.

“I’m proud to show it off,” Wahl said. “And I’m really proud of my crew for helping me free up enough time to actually be able to achieve this. It’s really been a great experience.”

Since its inception in 2012, 433 men and women have received the Master Precaster designation.

The program began with one graduate in its first class, with numbers steadily climbing each year. In the past two years, the graduate count has jumped to record heights and is only expected to grow.
The rapid growth is significant because the title of Master Precaster is no easy thing to achieve.


The Master Precaster Program is part of NPCA’s Precast University. This precast-specific training curriculum through NPCA’s Production & Quality School includes comprehensive education courses on production, safety, technical, quality control and leadership. It can be completed by taking six courses online and in person.

“It’s been built on the needs of the members,” said Wilbert Precast’s Brandy Rinkel, Chair of NPCA’s Education Committee. “It’s designed specifically for their employees.”

The program typically takes at least two years to complete. The rigorous schedule provides some flexibility with online courses.

“Every day (at work) is putting out fires,” Wahl said. “So having to sit down and focus for hours during the work day was doable for the (webinars and in-person classes). But having the ones I can do at my own pace was really helpful.”

A hopeful Master Precaster’s path begins with PQS I, now offered online. The course covers the basic body of knowledge that all employees at a precast concrete plant should have. Veterans of the precast concrete industry, including the late Mel Marshall, developed the comprehensive program to address the key fundamentals of producing quality precast concrete. It covers each critical step of the production process from start to finish, including batching and mixing, reinforcement, production practices and quality control.

The next step requires participants to complete the PQS II – Safety: Precast Module and have a valid OSHA card. PQS II – Safety examines safety issues associated with the precast production process. Upon completion of the course, participants are able to identify safety hazards, apply techniques and implement programs to improve safety, lead toolbox talks and develop action plans to address concerns.

PQS II – Production is the first of the required courses to be offered in person. It is held annually for two days ahead of The Precast Show. This year’s class drew a record number of participants, with 112 men and women in the class.

The Production course is designed for plant personnel who will benefit from a comprehensive understanding of precast-specific production practices. It goes beyond the fundamentals explored in PQS I to prepare students to become production leaders in their plants. Topics include concrete lean manufacturing, repair procedures and techniques, reinforcement, and lifting and handling. Participants are engaged in hands-on learning that challenges their knowledge and teamwork skills.

The next course, PQS II – Technical is offered annually as a webinar. Utilizing NPCA’s engineers and other industry experts, Technical explores the technical aspects of the manufactured concrete production process. The course focuses on basic mechanics, the basics of design theory for concrete elements, proper lifting of products, reading and understanding blueprints, and standards and specifications.

A math prep course is required to complete the five-day course.

PQS II – QA/QC rounds out the Level 2 courses. Offered online, the course stresses the importance of a well-executed QA/QC program to a successful precast operation. It covers aggregate gradation analysis, aggregate moistures and hot- and cold-temperature concrete. Participants learn why the water-to-cement ratio is so critical to concrete properties and the need for frequent testing to assess water absorption and movement in concrete.

The final course to secure your Master Precaster title is PQS III – Leadership. PQS III will help you reach the next stage of your career, whether you are looking to hone your leadership skills or expand your career opportunities. The course explores current leadership principles to strengthen your management styles and skills with traditional and cross-cultural workforces.

The course is offered annually leading up to The Precast Show. This year, the class also had a record number of participants at 64.


While some might see the Master Precaster program as intended for those just starting out in the industry, it’s designed for everyone, from someone in their first year at a precast facility to those with years of experience looking to move into a new, more challenging role.

“Being raised in precast my whole life, I thought I knew everything about precast,” said Allen Lee of Lee’s Precast Concrete. “So, I started that program, and I learned a lot. All different aspects of what we do every day is covered in that program.”

Wahl spent a lot of late nights finishing the online courses and taking tests to pass the classes. But those long hours are worth it to have that gold hard hat and be equipped with the tools to keep wearing those other hats.

“Going through PQS has given me those tools, these reference points,” Wahl said. “It’s given me the time to kind of hone in and focus on these skills. It’s really helped me in talking to specifiers, engineers, designers and contractors on site. And it’s challenged me to do a better job working with my crew.”

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